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Comment: Re:No surprise there (Score 1) 263

by jalind (#42111761) Attached to: After Weeks of Trying, UK Cryptographers Fail To Crack WWII Code

Yes, I do.

VENONA was a project, a collaboration between the US and UK, that partially cracked the Soviet diplomatic/spy encryption that used a OTP key system. In my remark, I casually referred to the OTP system used by the Soviets as Venona, but VENONA was the project that partially cracked it, not the OTP system itself. The Soviets made a serious blunder when some of the same key sequences were re-used in the system. Some of the re-use is possibly accidental by the Soviets responsible for creating the keys, other of the re-use may have been caused by the need for huge amounts of key material and a shortage of available material. The creation of really random OTP key material in the time-frame of VENONA was labor intensive and slow.

The re-use enabled the US and UK to eventually decrypt all of some messages and portions of others in the post-WWII 1940s and very early 1950s. There can be a lot of conjecture as to how the US/UK cracked the keys, but some of it may have involved obtaining clear text for some of the messages compromised elsewhere, reverse-engineering the key material from that and then seeing if any other encrypted texts would decrypt with the key material thus obtained. The bottom line is that the VENONA project would have had ZERO success if the Soviets had not re-used key material in the messages on which the VENONA project was working.

Comment: Easy solution... (Score 1) 223

by jalind (#42111057) Attached to: Google Found Guilty of Libel For Search Results In Australia

This has an easy solution. Since Australia holds Google responsible for any and all web site content for any and all websites their search engine indexes, disconnect all of Australia from Google. This court and jury decision makes about as much sense as jailing a person who makes a sign pointing the direction to China for all the human rights abuses that happen in China.

Comment: Re:No surprise there (Score 1) 263

by jalind (#42089923) Attached to: After Weeks of Trying, UK Cryptographers Fail To Crack WWII Code

With this stuff, not likely. The amount of supervision and the clarity of instructions and severity of consequences for not following them would have made it very unlikely that they would have deviated from what they were told to do. The women the US Navy got to make the US mechanical and electrical equivalents of German Enigma machines were told uneqivocally that they would be subjected to a court-martial and shot if they revealed anything about what they were doing. These US made machines were the ones used to decrypt intercepted German message traffic encrypted with German Enigma machines after the Bletchley Park code breakers were able to crack the key used for a batch of messages.

Comment: Re:...? Really? (Score 1) 263

by jalind (#42089861) Attached to: After Weeks of Trying, UK Cryptographers Fail To Crack WWII Code

Yes, really. Brute force is useless with OTP encryptions if they are used correctly. With a OTP, every possible permutation and combination of letters and numbers is an equally probable decryption including all texts from the Bible, Shakespeare, the Unabridged Dictionary, Encyclopedia Britannica, Journey to the West (Chinese), War and Peace (Russian), El Cid (Spanish) and any other text in any possible language since every possible permutation and combination of letters and numbers is a possible key. That is the great strength of OTPs. Any string of letters and numbers is an equally probable key and any usable and/or readable text an equally probable decryption. They are completely impossible to crack unless the OTP is not generated correctly or is misused.

The CIA would not have been able to break the Soviet's Venona if it weren't for its misuse, and, even then, it was not broken completely. In the case of Venona, the CIA was able to use plain text or predictable plain text from one use of a one-time-key with something they didn't know that (through ineptness or stupidity) that used the same key. Otherwise, the Venona documents would be just encrypted junk. The downside of OTPs are that each end has to have the same OTP, the use has to stay synchronized and, if the OTP gets captured, every message created with it is potentially compromised if any already used portion of the OTP is captured. That is why, with OTPs, the most important rules were to never reuse any portion of the pad and to destroy all already used portions.

In this case, the sender would have destroyed the part of the OTP used on creation of the message. if the other copy (there were two copies sent) was received and a OTP was used, the receiver's part of that OTP would have been destroyed making ultimate decryption impossible. What is possible is marrying up the encrypted message with the other copy that was sent if it was received and decrypted. Marrying the two together would use information such as the header, preamble and postamble information which would be the time sent, the person sending it (Sjt Stott, in modern spelling Sgt Stott), the recipient, the pigeon serial numbers and the somewhat enigmatic AOAKN starting and ending blocks and 1525/6 found at the message end.

Comment: Re:...? Really? (Score 1) 263

by jalind (#42089855) Attached to: After Weeks of Trying, UK Cryptographers Fail To Crack WWII Code

Yes, really. With a OTP, every possible permutation and combination of letters and numbers is an equally probable decryption including all texts from the Bible, Shakespeare, the Unabridged Dictionary, Encyclopedia Britannica, Journey to the West (Chinese), War and Peace (Russian), El Cid (Spanish) and any other text in any possible language since every possible permutation and combination of letters and numbers is a possible key. That is the great strength of OTPs. Any string of letters and numbers is an equally probable key and any usable and/or readable text an equally probable decryption. They are completely impossible to crack unless the OTP is not generated correctly or is misused.

The CIA would not have been able to break the Soviet's Venona if it weren't for its misuse, and, even then, it was not broken completely. In the case of Venona, the CIA was able to use plain text or predictable plain text from one use of a one-time-key with something they didn't know that (through ineptness or stupidity) that used the same key. Otherwise, the Venona documents would be just encrypted junk. The downside of OTPs are that each end has to have the same OTP, the use has to stay synchronized and, if the OTP gets captured, every message created with it is potentially compromised if any already used portion of the OTP is captured. That is why, with OTPs, the most important rules were to never reuse any portion of the pad and to destroy all already used portions.

In this case, the sender would have destroyed the part of the OTP used on creation of the message. if the other copy (there were two copies sent) was received and a OTP was used, the receiver's part of that OTP would have been destroyed making ultimate decryption impossible. What is possible is marrying up the encrypted message with the other copy that was sent if it was received and decrypted. Marrying the two together would use information such as the header, preamble and postamble information which would be the time sent, the person sending it (Sjt Stott, in modern spelling Sgt Stott), the recipient, the pigeon serial numbers and the somewhat enigmatic AOAKN starting and ending blocks and 1525/6 found at the message end.

Comment: Never finished school... (Score 3, Insightful) 178

by jalind (#42089687) Attached to: Compared to my siblings ...

Never finished school, but have about 32 hours of mathematics and physics and other general classes towards a BS in Physics. IMHO, the formal education makes no difference unless the experience of obtaining it creates the ability to think. Of all the PhD mathematicians and physicists, the MBAs and MScs and others with whom I've worked in the last 35 years in IT, the very best were the ones who learned how to think really well however they were educated. The worst sometimes had more yardage on their transcripts, but saw it only as a ticket to punch for a high paying job. They were the ones who were really adept at getting a job, putting on a good show while at work, getting everyone else to solve the really difficult aspects of their work and moving on to greener pastures when they got cornered with their own mediocrity.

The one thing I have observed is that higher education and popular culture in the US is progressively rewarding the latter behavior. Geek, nerd and other perjorative appellations clearly reflect what current popular culture thinks of the deep thinkers. Instead, we reward a culture that glorifies gangsta rapper drug lords and image-without-substance from Hollister and Abercrombe & Fitch.

Comment: Re:No surprise there (Score 1) 263

by jalind (#42089009) Attached to: After Weeks of Trying, UK Cryptographers Fail To Crack WWII Code

Not surprised by any of this.

One thing that sets this message apart and makes it unique from the 30 or so museum examples of Pigeon Service messages is that it contains 27 five-character blocks of encrypted content.

Messages not only comprise their message text, but also preambles, postambles and handling annotations that comprise other information about the message and its transmission. Comments elsewhere indicate XO2 was UK's Bomber Command in WWII. There are a number of items that are probably not part of the encrypted message but are message header material and relevant to its context that may be important to routing it to where the message itself can be properly decoded and its contents used. They are quite distinct from the 27 five-character blocks in the message body. The more enigmatic one of them is the AOAKN that is the first and last cypher block in the text. It may or may not be encrypted, part of the message or may serve some other purpose in the encryption/decryption or message itself. By looking at the writing, at least two, possibly three persons, or more, wrote on the message form. The 27 is most likely a check count of cypher blocks. There are 27 cypher blocks and the number 27 is most likely a check count for the message (in case it gets damaged en route). Another annotation not part of the 27 cypher blocks is the 1525/6 at the end of the cypher blocks. It may refer to an OTP serial number and page within the OTP or some other similar identifier to get to arrive at a correct decryption key by the recipient.

If OTPs were used with pigeons, there would be no guarantee as to which messages would arrive in what order, so some indicator would be needed to sequence the use of the OTP pages at the receiving end. Also note that there is a full-stop (i.e. period) at the end of each 12 cypher block group and one after the 1525/6 annotation. There are two other dots as well. They may be as simple as a pencil rest point when counting blocks, have other causes or have more significance. Also note that the digit 6 after the virgule follows the digit 5 before the virgule. This may be shorthand for 1525 and 1526 indicating that two pages of an OTP were used because the message exceeded the length of a single OTP page.

The message was sent by two different pigeons, their serial numbers both noted on this message. Something to note about these particular serial numbers is that neither are recorded in the British records of their military pigeon service which gives reasonable speculation, along with other information about where the pigeon was found and its likely flight path, that they were part of a very secret set of pigeons managed at Bletchley Park that belonged to MI6 (or its equivalent in WWII).

There is another annotation in roundhand (cursive) that appears to be "lib." followed a four-digit number that may or may not be a 24hr clock time. It may or may not be a reference to when the pigeons were released as opposed to when the message was created. It was written using the same type of writing instrument as the XO2. The cypher text and cypher notations ("27" and "1526/6") are in blue, along with the time of origin and the sender's signature. The rest are in black. Letter and number formations appear somewhat different between the blue and black. The blue may be from using a "blue" type carbon paper to create two identical copies of the original message and the other annotations in black from subsequent handling before being sent by the pigeon(s).

Another thing to keep in mind is that civilian non-commercial, commercial and military messaging very frequently use short-hand codes for standard message texts and handling. Typical non-military examples are Q signals, ARL signals, and commercially created telegram encoding to reduce the length of common message texts and eliminate the possiblity of transmission errors. One example from the US Amateur Radio Service used in Radiograms is ARL FIFTY where the prefix ARL indicates a numbered message text and FIFTY (spelled out) is the message identifier. The receiving end would translate ARL FIFTY to read "Greetings from Amateur Radio" before delivery to the designated recipient. It is a high enough probability that this encrypted message makes use of a short-hand code as well that it must be considered when looking for possible solutions.

Context is extremely relevant to understand what the structural elements mean and whether there is a structure to the encrypted portion that could help in decrypting it. Alternatives to a OTP could be a commonly posessed book or text from which indexed content could be used for encrypting or decrypting the message. Given that this was done in battlefield conditions, possibly clandestine conditions, the posession of an obvious OTP would be dangerous. It could be that the form on the pigeon is a transcription of a message encoded elsewhere. Reasons could include hiding content from message handlers as well as the enemy.

Something else to consider is the timeliness factor and importance of such a message. It would take up to several hours for the message to arrive so it was not used for instant information although it was used for important small-volume information that could not wait for possibly unavailable alternative courier methods.

If an OTP was used and the rest of the message preamble, postamble and handling annotations can't provide enough of a context for finding an extant OTP for this specific message, the message may never be decrypted. One of the things about OTPs was that, when the pages were used, they were destroyed to prevent any possible accidental re-use or compromise.

The biggest difference between time and space is that you can't reuse time. -- Merrick Furst

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