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200-Year-Old Cipher Finally Cracked

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the castle-aaaaaaaagh dept.

Encryption 141

Attila Dimedici writes "A code expert just cracked a code used by a friend of Thomas Jefferson in a letter written to Jefferson some 200 years ago. This code is fairly easy to crack using a computer, but extremely difficult without one. I think it would have been much harder if the author had not included an indication as to what code algorithm he used in the letter accompanying the coded message."

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tl;dr (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563083)

The message says:

"In Congress, July Fourth, one thousand seven hundred and seventy six. A declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. When in the course of human events..."

Re:tl;dr (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563381)

FTFA:

After about a week of working on the puzzle, the numerical key to Mr. Patterson's cipher emerged -- 13, 34, 57, 65, 22, 78, 49.

Hey! That's the combination to my luggage!

Re:tl;dr (1)

hansraj (458504) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563475)

A luggage combination that long? What exactly are you carrying around in your luggage?

Re:tl;dr (1)

sentientbeing (688713) | about 5 years ago | (#28567387)

Another piece of luggage locked with a another secret code. A code far more fiendish and devilish than the last

Re:tl;dr (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28567719)

You're not supposed to combine ciphers. The combination could actually be weaker. For example, the combo make it even easier to open your luggage open with a chainsaw.

lotto... (2, Funny)

Narnie (1349029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563625)

After about a week of working on the puzzle, the numerical key to Mr. Patterson's cipher emerged -- 13, 34, 57, 65, 22, 78, 49.

This week's lotto numbers, here I come!!!

Re:lotto... (1)

2names (531755) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564429)

I put the numbers into OO Spreadsheet as A1:A7, and applied the following: =((ROUNDDOWN((A1+A2)/A3)+A4-(ROUNDUP((A5*A6)/A7))+A1))

It's everywhere!

Re:tl;dr (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28567767)

Huh, that's funny. I heard you could also decode it with the numerical key: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42.

Re:tl;dr (1)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563637)

in compliance with the patriot act, the message has now been redacted to read:

In XXX, July XXX, one thousand seven hundred and seventy XXX. A XXX by the XXX of the United XXX of XXX in XXX assembled.

Re:tl;dr (1)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564053)

In a strikingly similar incident, the 43rd president, George W Bush, was apparently challenged while in office with an encrypted text by an unknown correspondent. Though the cipher remains unsolved, there are hints that the plaintext, like Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, encapsulates some of the President's profoundest thoughts. Former President Bush hopes that the science of cryptanalysis may one day advance to the point where future generations will be able to read the message. The full text is given below:

Znxr gur Cvr Uvture

V guvax jr nyy nterr, gur cnfg vf bire.
Guvf vf fgvyy n qnatrebhf jbeyq.
Vg'f n jbeyq bs znqzra
Naq hapregnvagl
Naq cbgragvny zragny ybffrf.

Eneryl vf gur dhrfgvba nfxrq
Vf bhe puvyqera yrneavat?
Jvyy gur uvtujnlf bs gur vagrearg
Orpbzr zber srj?
Ubj znal unaqf unir V funxrq?

Gurl zvfhaqrerfgvzngr zr.
V nz n cvgohyy ba gur cnagyrt bs bccbeghavgl.
V xabj gung gur uhzna orvat naq gur svfu
Pna pbrkvfg.

Snzvyvrf vf jurer bhe angvba svaqf ubcr
Jurer bhe jvatf gnxr qernz.
Chg sbbq ba lbhe snzvyl!
Xabpx qbja gur gbyyobbgu!
Ihypnavmr fbpvrgl!
Znxr gur cvr uvture!
Znxr gur cvr uvture!

Re:tl;dr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28564251)

vulcanise society? that was a new one on me...

Re:tl;dr (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28564859)

Make the pie higher

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen
And uncertainty
And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the internet
Become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish
Can coexist.

Families is where our nation finds hope
Where our wings take dream.
Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher!
Make the pie higher!

-art major who reads too much slashdot

Re:tl;dr (3, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565131)

Phnglui mglwnafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgahnagl fhtagn!

Re:tl;dr (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | about 5 years ago | (#28566813)

We'll figure that out the same day as we find the 44th presidents 8 missing states; 7 of which he visited and had one left to go during the campaign.

easy to crack using a computer... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563085)

"This code is fairly easy to crack using a computer, but extremely difficult without one."

no really...

Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (5, Interesting)

netsavior (627338) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563089)

the Voynich [xkcd.com] manuscript [wikipedia.org] is a much more compelling and difficult mystery.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (2, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563267)

Dude, the Voynich manuscript has been cracked.

It's a variation of the GNAA first post troll.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (4, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563691)

Perhaps, but there's no evidence that the Voynich manuscript is a cypher in the traditional sense. A natural language isn't normally "decyphered", since it was never encrypted in the first place.

Given that there are many hundreds of thousands of natural languages today for which there is no written form, it's entirely possible that this is a script invented for such a language. In WW2, natural native American languages were sometimes used in this way as an "unbreakable cypher" - who's to say that medieval Europeans hadn't done the same thing themselves?

If that is the case, then it isn't particularly compelling (we know of many extinct languages for which no known writing exists - and hundreds more go extinct yearly), and is not so much "difficult" as useless - the text could never be read.

The wikipedia article doesn't say anything about using techniques to detect writing that is no longer visible, so I must assume no such techniques have been used.

(It may be possible to establish some of the content of a missing page if the page after had been underneath at the time of writing. Non-destructive techniques for doing this formed a part of the case against the West Midland's serious crime squad in the 90s, where it could be shown pages of confessions had been altered after being signed. However, if no such analysis has taken place, the presence of such data is unknown.)

Regardless, there are many missing pages. From the articles, the page numbers seem to be relatively new compared to the text, so we don't know how many pages are actually missing, we only know how many went missing since being numbered. This makes understanding the text very difficult and even if the text could be translated, there's no guarantee we could even read it or understand it without those pages.

We know vastly more about Linear A than we do about the script on the Voynich manuscript, including the archaeology of the people writing Linear A, yet after all this time we've got no further than knowing the number system and a few of the numbers in it.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (2, Insightful)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563985)

Agreed, if someone handed us a (random) book written in Japanese (take your pick which writing style), do you think we could "decipher" it without knowledge of the Japanese language? The half backward sentence structure, the combinations of syllables into letters. Right to left, even bottom to top. Each word being spelled entirely different than our English word. Words having multiple meanings, and when combined with other words having even more unrelated meanings.

It is more likely that the Voynich was written in a dead language written by a person hoping to preserve that language in some way.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564423)

Possibly. It depends on the context in which the text is found. But it certainly wouldn't be easy without some clues to the nature of the grammar involved. Hieroglyphics were only figured out because of the Rosetta stone, while most of cuneiform is still incomprehensible.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28564703)

"...while most of cuneiform is still incomprehensible."

Really? Have a source for that? Who wrote the language "cuneiform" anyway? Oh, wait, cuneiform isn't a language. Maybe you're so under informed on the subject you don't have a clue?

Sumerian cannot be "completely" translated (whatever that means), but if you learn a language distinctly different from your native you will quickly realize that it is simply not possible to "completely" or "fully" translate everything.

If you read a decent translation of something from another language it will include information about the limitations of the translation. Such as [obscure passage] or [missing text] or explanatory footnotes of particularly difficult points.

Assuming you unknowingly meant Sumerian when you said cuneiform I'd guess that you were under the impression that in any given text there may be an [obscure passage] or, alternate (and divergent) readings are possible. But to assert that most of cuneiform is still incomprehensible is incorrect.

The basic point of "needing context" is still there, but Sumerian was in use for a *long* time. Longer than any other known language. Its usage overlapped many others and so there are techniques such as parallel or instructional texts that help with understanding it.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (2, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#28566001)

Sumerian cannot be "completely" translated (whatever that means)

At least we can try from a different perspective [acronet.net] :

At the same time, we have to realize that in certain instances it is truly very difficult, or even impossible to read the written text well and find its true meaning, even if we do have the knowledge of the rules of this writing and reading and also use the only good key leading there, which is the Hungarian language in establishing the sound values. After all, we are dealing with the spiritual heritage of a world of 4-5000 years ago; the workings of the minds of the people then was completely different from ours. This difficulty can be bridged only if we become thoroughly familiar with the belief system, statesmanship of the ages BC. It is for this reason that when we do translate a text we must sometimes add lengthy explanations to a given sentence. The following examples will clarify this statement.

The Egyptian and Sumerian texts frequently use the following names of their Sungod: Égúr, Székúr, Kerek Úr, Napúr, Õsúr, Magúr, Útúr, Honúr, Szemúr, Égetõ Úr, Vörös Szemû and some at least twenty more expressions. Western scholars who are not familiar with the key-language understand only the Úr suffix of these words which they translate as God. They also believe that as many such words with Úr endings exist, that many gods were worshipped by the ancients. For them there is a God An, God Utu, God Sek and so on. Anyone familiar with the key-language and the ancients' religion will recognize these words as the names of the same Sungod; the ancients stressed one of the Sungod's characteristics and function by a given name. We may compare this practice to the Roman Catholic Church's practice to call God the Father in his creative capacity, the Son is his redemptive function and the Holy Spirit as his sanctifying function. We will fully understand the Sungod's many names if we are familiar with the concepts of the ancients concerning the Sungod. According to them, the sun, this heavenly body is God's visible picture. Since this picture appears round, they name him Kerek Úr (Round Lord). Since the Sun brightens everything and sees everything, like a giant eye another name of his is Szemúr (Occulate Lord). Since his eye is pairless, they call him Egyszemû (One Eyed), according to the sun's color Vörös Szemû (Red Eyed) and since the Sun resides in the sky they also called him Égi Szem or Égszem (Eye of Heavens). When they contemplated its immense heat they called him Égetõ Úr (Scorching Lord) and Sütõ Úr (Shining Lord). They also believed that he is the only Lord in his world so they called him Honúr (Lord of his Home) and Égi Király (King of Heavens). As they saw the apparent motion as he rises in the morning his name then was Ra-Kel (Ra rises), the rising on the eastern borders Kel-Út (The Road of Rising/East) where he sits down onto his chair: Szék-Úr (Lord of the Chair or the Seated/Settled Lord), later on he sits into his chariot and travels the shiny roads of the skies: Útúr (Lord of the Road) and when he finished his daily journey and reaches the west: Nyug-Út (Resting/Western Road) and as he sinks below the horizon: Esút, Este (The Falling/Evening Road, Evening). As we clarify this section of their belief everything becomes clearer and also realize that the ancients whose religion was connected with the Sun were never polytheistic, they only had one God.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (2, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28566069)

Hieroglyphs, dammit; 'hieroglyphic' is an adjective.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 5 years ago | (#28566999)

While your suggestion is the #1 entry, the #2 entry is the one people actually use, and it is listed a a noun.

from m-w.com:
Main Entry: 2hieroglyphic
Function:
noun
Date:
1586
1: hieroglyph
2: a system of hieroglyphic writing ; specifically : the picture script of the ancient Egyptian priesthood --often used in plural but singular or plural in construction
3: something that resembles a hieroglyph especially in difficulty of decipherment

(Wow, I was going to pick on 'dammit', and at least dictionary.com lists it.)

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (3, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565037)

Many words in one of the syllabic alphabet (katakana) have a pronunciation close to english, as they are foreign words phonetically transcribed in Japanese, like ko-n-pu-ta (computer)
Even without that, it is easy to tell apart the complex ideograms and the syllabic characters, if only because of their frequency of appearance. There are some structures easy to spot : polite forms and declarative sentences end frquently by the same words, etc... There are many structures that are easy to spot. I suspect it is the case in any language. The Voynich doesn't appear to obey to any grammar structure. Such a problem ought to be easy : there is a whole book, presumably about plants, and we don't even manage to find a single common word in all these pages that could possibly mean "plant" ? Or "root" ? Or a single sentence structure common to many places ? My bet is on "nonsense written by someone who wished he could write and had an instability making him believe he could"

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565331)

I quite agree. And Japanese isn't even the worst. There is a writing style where you alternatively write right-to-left then left-to-right. The dead language of Easter Island, Rongo-Rongo, goes one worse and even requires you to turn the page upside-down on alternate lines. (That's the ONLY thing anyone can understand of it.)

The Wikipedia article states that some words are repeated three times, which strongly suggests that words can be modified not only by other words but by groups of other words. Quite a number of languages also have special symbols (determinants) which can completely alter the meaning of the word they're associated with.

Others liberally mix alphabetic, syllabic and iconographic symbols - modern English is a good example of a language that does this. In some languages, the same character can be used in any or all of these forms, depending on the characters around them.

I suspect you are correct in your conclusion that it was some (alas failed) attempt to preserve a dead language, which may also include my idea that such a language was being used as a secret language but is not restricted to that theory.

It would be interesting to know which language it was, and where, but I'm not sure we'll ever get beyond the (fairly wide-ranging) language family already guessed at.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (3, Insightful)

netsavior (627338) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564187)

First of all, The Voynich is only 500 years old(give or take), from a time when books were not uncommon, and was very very likely written in Europe, hardly pre-historic. This would be a person in Europe, with contemporary writing, art, and binding supplies, writing in a dead language not otherwise documented anywhere else. Linear A is like FOUR THOUSAND years dead... not really comperable.

That is what makes it so compelling, the fact that it happened, not in a vaccum like the Aboriginal Amazon, not in ancient history like Linear A, not in Stone, or papyrus, or etched on tree bark, but that it happened inside of western society, using "modern methods" (for the day), and it is a language/code that can be verified as not being junk, but that nobody had seen before or since.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565599)

Like I said, the UN is showing the number of endangered languages today to number in the hundreds of thousands. One can only imagine what the number was like 500 years ago, when empires routinely extinguished native languages.

Linear A is indeed much, much older but we have the advantage of having many thousands of texts, the context, a better concordance and greater trust in the contents not having been altered.

We know that the page numbers and some of the images are newer than the actual text, so we know that prior owners weren't above doodling. You'd need to to use X-Ray fluorescence or the detection of impressions on other pages to be certain none of the characters have been added or altered in some way, and I see no evidence such tests have been done.

I have said elsewhere that it could be nonsense, but (as Spike Milligan and Lewis Carrol demonstrated) something can be nonsense and still not junk. The analysis done certainly does seem to show that it's not junk. I agree with you on that.

I also agree it's not been seen before or since, which means that you have a sample size of one - insufficient for a useful concordance, as different uses for writing will produce different character frequencies. This appears to be a technical document, which will be very different from a work of poetry or a legal document.

I do think it is a dead language, but because there are just so many of them (many without writing systems of their own, but any of which could have been given one by an interested proto-anthropologist or proto-historian), we'll likely never know which one it was.

Not that we go great even when we do know which language it was. There are plenty of lost languages with plenty of samples of writing that are just as recent that we simply can't read and likely never will.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564853)

The other option is that it Voynich manuscript is nonsense. It could very well be the work of an insane illetrate man (or woman) who wanted to write a book and did.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (2, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565009)

But it still has lots of patterns that every language known has. Anyone can take a bunch of scribblings down and make it "seem" like a language, but the Voynich manuscript is unique that every part of it seems to be a language, not the work of someone insane.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (3, Funny)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565515)

Lorem Ipsum dolor sit amet...

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565417)

That is entirely possible, except that the frequency of character groupings and word groupings seem to match up with real-world natural languages.

Of course, we know from J.R.R. Tolkien's work on Elvish that it's possible to create a "natural language" that fits perfectly with known patterns and yet has no existence in the real world outside of its creation.

This would allow the script to both be nonsense and yet appear coherent to the sort of basic analysis that has been possible. It could even be done by someone who was quite insane. Illiterate would seem less likely, but I suppose is possible - you only need to be able to count and distinguish symbols to understand patterns, you don't need to know what the symbols mean. It would take an ubergeek of an illiterate, though. Mind you, most ubergeeks are insane and (as textspeak, 'leetspeak and lolspeak show) are quite capable of inventing their own languages.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

Meumeu (848638) | about 5 years ago | (#28568447)

The other option is that it Voynich manuscript is nonsense. It could very well be the work of an insane illetrate man (or woman) who wanted to write a book and did.

Now that's ironic...

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565465)

Perhaps, but there's no evidence that the Voynich manuscript is a cypher in the traditional sense. A natural language isn't normally "decyphered", since it was never encrypted in the first place.

I ran the Voynich text through a strange old Apple ][ assembler program an old friend once wrote. The results don't make sense to me, either. It starts:

"Es Brillig war. Die schlichte toven warten und wimmelten in Waben. Alle mumsige war die Borgegoven, und die Momeraths ausgraben."

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28566019)

Perhaps, but there's no evidence that the Voynich manuscript is a cypher in the traditional sense. A natural language isn't normally "decyphered", since it was never encrypted in the first place.

Not true. All of the analysis so far suggests that the Voynich is not plaintext (from what I remember the ridiculously low entropy is one of the primary indicators). People like the whole "phonetic alphabet for [insert your favorite obscure Asian language]" idea because it sounds cool, but there is no evidence for it.

Not sure I agree that we know vastly more about the people of Minoan Crete than those of 16th century Europe, though.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#28566115)

The thing is, we know Linear A was indeed in Minoan Crete and we know a fair bit about Minoan Crete. Although we know a lot about 16th century Europe as a whole, it could be absolutely anywhere in Europe and the amount that is common across the whole of Europe back then was exceedingly small.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28566735)

>>>- who's to say that medieval Europeans hadn't done the same thing themselves?

ME. I love it when people confuse their romantic notions with fact. The printing press pretty much triggered the start of the end of total illiteracy. This was the Renaissance, after the medieval. To suggest that medieval Europeans were skilled writers AND clever enough to develop alternate character sets for symbols they didn't know how to write to begin with is a stretch.

>>>(we know of many extinct languages for which no known writing exists - and hundreds more go extinct yearly)

come on! stop repeating drivel, this is a made up number. 7 -10 a year might be closer.

Re:Wake me when the Voynich is cracked (1)

AhtirTano (638534) | about 5 years ago | (#28566891)

Actually, natural native languages were not used as unbreakable cyphers. That's a myth. The code-talkers were trained to do this, and devised a code based on their language. (And actually, the program started in WWI and was so successful they revived it for WWII.) The Japanese figured out that Navajo was being used, and searched out Navajo speakers among POWs to translate. But because the code-talkers actually encoded their message during the translation into Navajo, even these POWs were unable to figure out what was going on.

Voynich is easy. Try and decipher this.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28567973)

"Society is intrinsically meaningless," says Lacan; however, according to Long[1] , it is not so much society that is intrinsically meaningless, but rather the failure of society. But if rationalism holds, we have to choose between textual postcultural theory and modern appropriation. The premise of postcapitalist materialism suggests that the task of the artist is significant form. However, any number of theories concerning not discourse, but subdiscourse may be found. The primary theme of Hamburger's[2] analysis of Derridaist reading is the role of the participant as observer.

But the subject is contextualised into a that includes narrativity as a reality. Lyotard suggests the use of postcapitalist materialism to analyse class.

Therefore, the fatal flaw, and eventually the rubicon, of rationalism prevalent in Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet is also evident in The Moor's Last Sigh.

However, the subject is interpolated into a that includes truth as a whole. Lyotard suggests the use of neocultural situationism to read and analyse language.

Anonymous Coward (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563133)

BALLS

Re:Anonymous Coward (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563181)

EGGS

Re:Anonymous Coward (-1, Offtopic)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563295)

AVOCADOS


Am I doing it right?

Are they touching? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563967)

because it would be gay
also: KING OF THREADS

Re:Are they touching? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28564297)

It's only gay if the balls touch.

Re:Are they touching? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28566983)

And you just love touching balls! In fact this is the ball touching thread, everyone touch balls!

just cracked?? (5, Informative)

macxcool (1370409) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563203)

A code expert just cracked a code

The article says "After unlocking its hidden message in 2007". This is hardly 'just'. The solution was more recently published though. Interesting article.

Re:just cracked?? (5, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563389)

What? You actually expect the article submitter to RTFA?

Re:just cracked?? (4, Funny)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563723)

A code expert just cracked a code

The article says "After unlocking its hidden message in 2007". This is hardly 'just'. The solution was more recently published though. Interesting article.

he's obviously using the same definition of "just" that I use when I tell my wife I just took out the garbage so get off my back

Text of the encrypted message (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563239)

"12345"

Contents of message (5, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563241)

"Hey Jefferson, you might want to try keeping it in your pants. I saw that slave girl today and she's starting to show. People will start asking questions."

Re:Contents of message (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563635)

Going by the fact that you got modded "troll" rather than "funny" I'd say that somebody is clinging to the American history they learned in elementary school a little too hard...

Re:Contents of message (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#28566265)

really, I has born in the early 60s and mention was made in public school before 7th grade Jefferson fathered children by his enslaved women.

Re:Contents of message (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 years ago | (#28568663)

> I has born in the early 60s

O RLY?

I can has you born in the early 80s or 90s. :)

Re:Contents of message (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563761)

Here I was expecting the message to read

"We apologize for the inconvenience."

Re:Contents of message (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28566177)

The message was for Thomas Jefferson, not W. Jefferson Clinton.

Re:Contents of message (2, Informative)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 4 years ago | (#28566367)

The DNA evidence for this claim is inconclusive because it does not eliminate other members of Jefferson's family. In particular, one close relative had a poor reputation, and is a likely candidate for this misbehaviour.

Re:Contents of message (1)

AhtirTano (638534) | about 5 years ago | (#28566909)

Except that many people came to the conclusion that he was the father before the DNA evidence, based on where he was and how he behaved around the time of the birth, the way he treated that slave family relative to others, and so forth. The DNA evidence was just the icing on the cake.

Security by obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563305)

I think it would have been much harder if the author had not included an indication as to what code algorithm he used in the letter accompanying the coded message.

So, your suggesting security by obscurity?

Re:Security by obscurity (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563467)

Obscurity IS a level of security, which is good, but it's only one level. Hopefully you have a security system that is robust enough that even when the obscurity is pierced, it is still secure. In the past when people complain about Microsoft depending on security through obscurity, they were referring to the fact that Windows was at one time so insecure that it was only a matter of obscurity that gave it any security at all. That isn't to say obscurity is all bad for security.

In this case, unless you knew the key, it would have been extremely time consuming to discover the solution, even if you knew the algorithm used. Notice it took the guy a week to solve it, even with a computer, and modern cryptanalysis techniques.

Re:Security by obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563791)

Obscurity IS a level of security, which is good, but it's only one level. Hopefully you have a security system that is robust enough that even when the obscurity is pierced, it is still secure.

No. Obscurity is hiding information and hoping that someone won't find it - that's not secure in any way shape or form.

People like you believe that passwords are "obscurity", when they're not - at least not in any well-designed system. The only way a password would be considered obscurity is if the password file was stored in plaintext on the filesystem, with only the filename to protect it. (Fortunately, most smart systems don't store the passwords at all.)

Re:Security by obscurity (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564273)

So you're saying, that when i changed my SSH port, the sudden halt in bots trying to login over SSH suddenly stopping was pure coincidence?

Obviously that doesn't do anything to protect me against directed attacks, but obscurity does a heck of a lot to protect against undirected attacks which are the majority of exploits these days.

Re:Security by obscurity (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564367)

changing ports is not obscurity.
port knocking is.

Nice try though.

Re:Security by obscurity (2, Insightful)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564791)

I don't know, port knocking starts to sound like a password to me.

Re:Security by obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28565601)

Sounds more like some sort of kinky sex to me...

Re:Security by obscurity (2, Insightful)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565823)

Port knocking is a form of password in essence. I can know everything about the method of security, but without the actual sequence it does me no good.

Changing ports on the other hand, requires at the absolute most for me to brute force all ~32k ports, there are port mapping tools that will do it much more simply. Thus obscurity, since once I know what the method is, I can break it easily.

Good thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28566591)

...I put all my net accessable ports in the upper 32k, not the lower.... ooops.

Re:Security by obscurity (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 5 years ago | (#28568219)

Obscurity IS a level of security

Only for so long as it's actually obscure.

And, also, with computer things, there are a lot of things that people commonly assume are obscure, but which, in fact, are not. So be careful what you take to be obscure. It could be that it's a secret to everybody.

Re:Security by obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28564359)

Ask the nearest sniper or B-2 pilot how well obscurity works.

Message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563343)

What was the message after all??

Biggest letdown ever (1)

basementman (1475159) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563489)

"In Congress, July Fourth, one thousand seven hundred and seventy six. A declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. When in the course of human events..." Why even bother writing a code to tell someone that?

Re:Biggest letdown ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563593)

Why even bother writing a code to tell someone that?

RTFA.

Re:Biggest letdown ever (3, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563615)

Most likely for the reason that was presented at the end of the article, it was for a bit of fun. It was meant to be an exercise in cryptography, by enciphering something Jefferson knew, he would know when (if) he deciphered it correctly.

Re:Biggest letdown ever (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564677)

The article said he took some liberties. I'm rather interested to know if those were in any way interesting.

Anyone have a copy of the actual paper?

Re:Biggest letdown ever (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28563641)

I know, I was expecting something profound like "drink more ovaltine please".

Re:Biggest letdown ever (2, Funny)

Cross-Threaded (893172) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565637)

You'll shoot your eye out kid...

Re:Biggest letdown ever (1)

deepershade (994429) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563715)

Because he wasn't passing on a secret message, he was merely demonstrating his cipher.
If you'd read the article you'd know that.

This is a textbook example of Schneier's Law (2, Insightful)

WhiteDragon (4556) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563547)

Re:This is a textbook example of Schneier's Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28566501)

...

And this is a a textbook example of Goodwin's law: Using wikipedia links to state so called laws is so 3rd Reich.

Re:This is a textbook example of Schneier's Law (1)

Kj0n (245572) | about 5 years ago | (#28568615)

You forgot the link [wikipedia.org] .

And the message said: (1)

wxjones (721556) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563597)

All your base are belong to us!

The article says (1)

sammykrupa (828537) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563733)

That the code's creator, Patterson, " estimated that the potential combinations to solve the puzzle was "upwards of ninety millions of millions."

First of all, I take this to be 90 trillion. But I am wondering if he is correct. Any thoughts?

The trick was finding the decoder ring (4, Funny)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563737)

The message was: "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

Re:The trick was finding the decoder ring (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565267)

Here, I'll save you a mouseclick and entirely too much reading to find the plaintext.

The actual plaintext was the text of the declaration of independence. The cryptologist who wrote the letter was just showing off his new cipher.

So what did it say? (0)

zerospeaks (1467571) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563749)

"I think this america thing was a bad idea."?

An interesting cypher system (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563777)

It wasn't nearly as strong as the author thought, but was still strong enough to resist cryptographers for a long time. That's impressive.

I wonder, though. There's a certain level of indirectness and jitter in the system used, but not enough to raise the complexity even to the single millions, let alone the millions of millions. Would it be possible to increase the strength of the system and still have it memorizable and usable by any person in the field without book, computer or other aid?

Re:An interesting cypher system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28566959)

Solitaire [wikipedia.org] is a modern cipher designed to be implementable without computer aid while still being pretty strong (certainly not a replacement for AES, but not bad). The only catch is that it gets that strength by using a deck of cards as the algorithm's memory.

Should Have Known Types of Codes in Use (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 4 years ago | (#28563885)

Even if the key to this exact code wasn't known, you'd think that all of the types of codes in use at that time would have been known and only a lack of interest kept this one from being cracked much earlier.

Re:Should Have Known Types of Codes in Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28564109)

Obviously, it wasn't Nom du Keyboard who finally cracked the code.

Fine, but... (3, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564459)

... it's not going to do much good for President Jefferson at this point.

Like I said yesterday, crypto, do or don't: DON"T (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28564575)

It's just a waste of effort to use crypto, as this story supports. It's all one big waste of time, effort, and manpower.

Could have been done earlier (5, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564643)

... but they had to wait for the copyright to expire.

He used a computer (2, Interesting)

tkioz (1586393) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564745)

He used a computer, he cheated. If he really wanted to work out it as a test of skill he should of used only tools people in that time had.

The message (1)

twigusa (692938) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564811)

The message read: Just abolished the slave trade. With any luck, we'll soon have a black president...

Zodiac Killer 360 (5, Interesting)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 4 years ago | (#28564901)

The elusive Zodiac Killer's 360 character cipher was never cracked, either, and it's been decades since he mailed it to newspapers. That cipher also seems a bit grid-like, with spacing made deliberately in rows. I wonder if this method would help, at least in part, in cracking it?

If anything, would be nice to see something come up to ascertain his identity, and if alive, put him behind bars.

Re:Zodiac Killer 360 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28568601)

Given the Zodiac's history of deception and mocking the authorities, I wouldn't be particularly surprised if his final hurrah was random gibberish made out to resemble his codes.

Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence (4, Interesting)

tyrione (134248) | more than 4 years ago | (#28565873)

He wrote the entire draft. The only parts that changed were minute portions and the choice of language he used was replaced by less forceful language for fear of being too alienating to the common man. The WSJ cites him as a contributor. The author needs to read Jefferson's letters. It's right in there. I suppose Stephen King or any other author should be called a contributor to their work after an Editor comes in and helps modify it.

Not a strong cipher. (2, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#28566157)

The only reason it's not been solved until now is because no serious cryptanalyst was working on it. As soon as I read the description of how it's done, I knew it would be highly vulnerable to a known-plaintext attack. (The guy who cracked it used frequency analysis of letter pairs, because there was no known plaintext available. But if someone were using the cipher on a regular basis, there would be.)

Jefferson's ghost appeared (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 years ago | (#28566993)

...muttering something about the DMCA.

And it said.... (0, Redundant)

DeadboltX (751907) | about 5 years ago | (#28567751)

Don't forget to drink your Ovaltine!
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