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Enemy Code Broken 137 Years Late 61

Random Hall writes "Dr. Kent Boklan, a former NSA employee and current Director of Security Research for Razorpoint Security Technologies, has described how he recently deciphered a message encrypted by Confederate Army General Edmund Kirby Smith on 14 September 1862."
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Enemy Code Broken 137 Years Late

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  • by patio11 ( 857072 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:12AM (#15477945)
    Granted, this particular artifact was undecoded until recently, but the Confederates' crypto scheme was busted into little itty bits during the war. The reason was, drumroll please, user error. Just like the Germans in WWII, they had a decently-secure cryptographic method combined with keys which were repeated on a regular basis. I highly recommend the book The Ultra Secret for an in-depth discussion of how far the Allies got on breaking Ultra (the Engima code) even before they captured the hardware -- there were several German signal operators who were sloppy and one particular favorite of the Brits and Poles working on the problem used his girlfriend's initals to encrypt every message for years.

    Cryptanalysis is, informally, the study of turning other peoples' "harmless mistakes" into "catastrophic errors". (Incidentally, this Confederate document got broken because they stored the cyphertext with plaintext which contained a sliver of the plaintext that was encoded, allowing the analyst to do a known-plaintext attack on the cypher. Thats also a boo-boo.)

  • by brokeninside ( 34168 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @07:27AM (#15478617)
    It took four years to break the three wheel enigma and that was with access to the Enigma manual that had the plain text of an encoded message. Breaking the form of enigma used by the German navy took longer and the allies spent thousands of man hours building machines that could perform the calculations fast enough. Also, it took additional thousands upon thousands of man hours to create and operate a machine that could decode the four wheel enigma machine when it was introduced in 1942.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato