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The Encryption Pioneer Who Was Written Out of History

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the who-now? dept.

Encryption 238

nk497 writes "Clifford Cocks is one of three British men who developed an encryption system while working for the UK government in the early 1970s, but was forced to keep the innovation quiet for national security reasons. Just a few years later, their Public Encryption Key was developed separately by US researchers at Stanford and MIT, and eventually evolved into the RSA encryption algorithm, which now secures billions of transactions on the internet every day. 'The first I knew about [the US discovery] was when I read about it in Scientific American. I opened it one lunchtime and saw a description and thought, "Ah, that's what we did,"' he said. 'You don't go into the business to get external credit and recognition — quite the opposite. Quite honestly, the main reaction was one of complete surprise that this had actually been discovered outside.' The UK trio have now won recognition for their accomplishment in the form of the Milestone Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers."

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Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822006)

If you sign an NDA, don't complain about lack of recognition...

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822052)

NDA in this case would have been the Official Secrets Act.

Re:Well... (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822590)

It doesn't apply to spys.

Re:Well... (4, Interesting)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822062)

I bet they forgot to tick the "don't let our government gift more of our cool sh!t to America" box at the bottom either. One day you're going to find our Queen left in a cardboard box on the steps of the Whitehouse with a note saying "sorry, we can't afford her any more, please take care of her - one lump of suger in her tea, etc."

Re:Well... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822244)

I bet they forgot to tick the "don't let our government gift more of our cool sh!t to America" box at the bottom either.

One day you're going to find our Queen left in a cardboard box on the steps of the Whitehouse with a note saying "sorry, we can't afford her any more, please take care of her - one lump of suger in her tea, etc."

Hey! You can't make fun of the Queen like that!!!

You should have correctly spelt sugar.

Re:Well... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822260)

She spells it "Zucker"

Re:Well... (3, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822516)

The history of post-War British technology has been a long succession of failed innovations which shortly afterwards have been appropriated and successfully marketed by American companies: Jet airliners, liquid crystal displays, public key encryption, home computers, the Web, and Pop Idol. Whichever British scientists don't end up emigrating to the US outright usually end up working for the US economy anyway.

Sadly, as a nation, the British seem not only contented with this state of affairs, but actually quite proud of their "special relationship". I blame the BBC for buying too many syndicated shows.

Blame the politicians and civil servants (2, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822596)

Most of them are arts graduates with about as much scientific and technical knowledge as a comatose slug. Nothing has changed. They wouldn't know technical innovation if it kicked them in the balls. While this country his still run by people who think quoting shakespeare parrot fashion is the last word in intellect then we stand no chance.

Re:Well... (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822648)

The history of post-War British technology has been a long succession of failed innovations which shortly afterwards have been appropriated and successfully marketed by American companies: Jet airliners, liquid crystal displays, public key encryption, home computers, the Web, and Pop Idol.

Having them take pop-idol almost makes up for them getting all the others.

Re:Well... (1, Interesting)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822730)

No, we're not contented with it. The trouble is, we've had 30 years of right-wing government since 1979, which has emphasised the financial sector above all else. The Thatcher government shut down the shipyards, the steel mills that supplied the shipyards, and the coal pits that supplied the steel mills. Then, if that wasn't enough, the Conservatives sold off the railways and the post office. Now we have expensive crap trains, an expensive crap postal service, and expensive crap telephone system. Then John Major's government managed to screw the economy until the Stock Market collapsed in 1992. As a little parting gift, they did away with student grants, so now students leave university with anything up to £100k of debt.

This paved the way for the Labour government, who decided that if you can't beat 'em you should join 'em. They set about selling off any publically-owned service that was left, pocketed the cash that they didn't spunk on things like the London Eye and Millenium Dome. Once again, though, right-wing politics lead to the inevitable economic collapse as they encouraged people to pay crazy prices for houses, with mortgages that no-one in their right mind would consider.

We're now in a position where the Conservative-Liberal coalition is slightly left of where "New Labour" (now *that* sounds Orwellian, does it not?) started in 1997. It doesn't look like they're going to do anything to stem the rising tide of anti-intellectualism. We're stuffed, basically. Maybe seeking asylum in Somalia would work out better, I just don't know.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822828)

I think you're mis-remembering the student grant situation. It was actually Blair's bunch who did away with student grants - I know because my final year was '97/'98 and I was one of the last lot to actually get a grant ("New Labour" being elected in 1997 and the grants going away in either 1998 or '99 IIRC, but either way they were definitely still around when Tony came to power - I remember a tory student gloating that although labour had been elected they were "paying back" the labour voting students by sticking a knife in their backs over grants).

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822600)

Can we just have Canada instead? I hear that the fishing is really good up there.

They have a headstart (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822016)

The Brits are pretty amazing. It's like they are a step ahead of everyone in this field. I imagine not brushing your teeth gives you a few minutes extra every day, and that adds up.

I'm kidding of course. But the British, maybe because of brains, maybe because of necessity, have been pushing the boundaries of computation for almost two hundred years. We owe a great debt of gratitude towards them.

But they were also kind of dicks about that whole independence thing. So it all evens out.

Re:They have a headstart (0, Redundant)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822104)

Oh dammit! It's 10am in London now...

Goodbye karma.

Re:They have a headstart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822442)

No, you're safe. The thing Americans often don't understand is that the American war of independence is just one of many wars we've fought, and we don't really care that we lost it. We do scratch our heads at how the moneyed interests of the US elite at the time seem to be ignored as a cause of the war in the US.

Re:They have a headstart (0)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822696)

Don't worry. Aussies and Kiwis (and Malaysians, Singaporeans, any remaining Fijians, etc) will mod you right back up.

Re:They have a headstart (3, Insightful)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822134)

...But they were also kind of dicks about that whole independence thing. So it all evens out.

You know, Americans say that about the Brits, but look to your neighbour to the North.
Rather than going through a bloody and violent war for independence, we just kinda sat around for a while. Eventually, the Brits forgot about us, we did our own thing, and we got some independence, we waited around some more, signed some papers, then got some more independence. No dickery at all. All I can really say about the accusations of one side being a dick is, "pot, meet kettle"

Re:They have a headstart (1)

AccUser (191555) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822282)

I don't think that the British forgot about the guys in the North - they were too busy fighting the French because of the guys in the North.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822470)

"The pretext of the war is about some land a thousand leagues off. A country cold, desolate and hideous. "

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00v3kg5 [bbc.co.uk]

Re:They have a headstart (1)

AccUser (191555) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822476)

You too? LOL

Re:They have a headstart (1)

bball99 (232214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822370)

have our neighbors to the North decided on whether or not Français is the language?

Re:They have a headstart (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822378)

I was surprised to learn about just how much influence Scotland had on the American Declaration of Independence. http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/enlightenment_and_empire/us_declares_independence/ [bbc.co.uk] If you can’t see the link in your area, I guess you can read up on John Witherspoon the Presbyterian preacher from Paisley. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Witherspoon [wikipedia.org]

Re:They have a headstart (4, Interesting)

jareth-0205 (525594) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822426)

Intriguingly (I think atleast), it is constitutionally impossible for the British government to grant independence to Canada, because it's not possible for one government to do something irreversible that the the next government can't undo. So, technically, the UK must still regard Canada as a colony...

Re:They have a headstart (4, Insightful)

rpjs (126615) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822446)

Well yes, Parliament cannot bind its successors, but that could apply just as well to recognising *US* independence.

What might be the theoretical legal situation isn't always compatible with the real world situation. Sensible people defer to the real world.

Re:They have a headstart (2, Interesting)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822846)

Indeed, the new coalition coming to power might have wished they could undo some of the events set in place by the previous government, getting into a costly war nobody wanted and making us a massive terrorist target into the bargain, for instance. I don't see how giving a country independence would be any different - if the new government wanted to undo that change they'd have to re-conquer said country, not easy but still not exactly binding or impossible.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822598)

it is constitutionally impossible for the British government to grant independence to Canada

History [wikipedia.org] begs [wikipedia.org] to [wikipedia.org] differ. [wikipedia.org]

Re:They have a headstart (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822772)

You need to distinguish between actual reality, the legal reality in Canada, India etc., and the legal reality in the UK.

For example, in actual reality, India is obviously an independent country. In Indian legal reality, India is an independent country as well: it is independent as far as Indian law is concerned. However, whether British law considers India to be truly independent is another matter; I don't know the answer, but there is no a priori reason why it would have to match e.g. Indian legal reality.

Consider the Anglo-Irish treaty you brought up. The very Wikipedia page you link to says that "it established the Irish Free State as a self-governing dominion within the British Empire" - note the wording. As far as British legal reality is concerned, Ireland is (apparently) still part of the British Empire, and thus not truly independent.

Of course, the GP is wrong, too: while it is impossible for the British parliament to *grant* independence to Canada, it is certainly not impossible for them to *recognize* the independence of Canada. Parliament cannot legally restrict what successive parliaments can do, but it does not have to close its eyes and refuse to accept actual reality, even if that actual reality is the independence of what was formerly a part of the British Empire. It merely cannot *create* this independence through its own actions.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

highways (1382025) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822636)

> Intriguingly (I think atleast), it is constitutionally impossible for the British government to grant independence to Canada, because it's not possible for one government to do something irreversible that the the next government can't undo. So, technically, the UK must still regard Canada as a colony...

Even Australia [wikipedia.org] is legally separate from Britian, despite the "Queen of Australia" being the same person as the "Queen of England".

Only one step to go before we finish the job...

Re:They have a headstart (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822734)

Only one step to go before we finish the job...

Oh christ I wish we'd hurry up. Its bloody embarrassing what with our official religion and all the sucking up to ER which goes on.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822720)

Well these are the people who's law is capable of declaring the landholdings of indigenous people to simply not exist. They didn't just ignore the issue or let their hit men clear the place out. They actually had a law to say that the place was empty when it clearly was not.

So clearly it can be hacked to say what they want it to say.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

mlush (620447) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822726)

Intriguingly (I think atleast), it is constitutionally impossible for the British government to grant independence to Canada, because it's not possible for one government to do something irreversible that the the next government can't undo. So, technically, the UK must still regard Canada as a colony...

Does that mean we still own Inida?

Re:They have a headstart (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822754)

What you're saying cannot be correct, otherwise any international treaty between countries would be non-binding, and I'm pretty sure the UK has entered into many binding international treaties over the past couple of centuries.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822760)

It didn't the Canada Act 1982 it gave them "Patriation" which meant that they were totally self governing ....

Re:They have a headstart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822794)

So, what about conquering foreign areas and claiming the land? If you can't do something irreversible, that would imply that these acts actually are reversible indeed.

Re:They have a headstart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822462)

"we" talk about ourselves too often!

Re:They have a headstart (1)

rpjs (126615) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822486)

We were less dicks with you precisely because the Americans won, and we realised that being less dickish was more likely to keep the remaining colonies in the Empire.

Although that was a relative thing of course: we carried on being dickish for a lot longer where the colonies were mostly inhabited by brown or black people, sad to admit.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822610)

You self hate all you want - some of us are quite proud of the empire and what it did.

Re:They have a headstart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822658)

Like Penal laws [wikipedia.org] and the Great Irish Famine [wikipedia.org] ?

And that's just your neighbours to the west.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822814)

I don't give a shit. All countries behaved similarly in past times. Why not go check out what the USA's record on native americans and the slave trade.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822614)

You know, Americans say that about the Brits, but look to your neighbour to the North. Rather than going through a bloody and violent war for independence, we just kinda sat around for a while.

Not just Canadians: Ghandi [wikipedia.org] and his followers gained independence for India through entirely non-violent protest.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

highways (1382025) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822654)

You know, Americans say that about the Brits, but look to your neighbour to the North. Rather than going through a bloody and violent war for independence, we just kinda sat around for a while.

And Australians did it with a vote [wikipedia.org] , not a war.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

itlurksbeneath (952654) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822778)

Different circumstances...

American Colonies: We're becoming our own country!
Britain: Bloody hell, you're not!
[war ensues]

About 125 years later after several other wars and colonies have fled...

Australian Territories: We're becoming our own country!
Britain: Awww, piss off.

Plus, the empire had other pressing things to worry with at the time with Australia, what with the flagging health of their Queen and all.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

lazybeam (162300) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822790)

And no-one knew our first Prime Minister until the TV ad told us!

Re:They have a headstart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822622)

No dickery at all.

Gallipoli, Paragon Wood.

Increases in Dominion Independence weren't just some gradual thing, they were direct responses to the abuse of Dominion troops to solve problems the British didn't want to use their own troops for, generally for electoral reasons.

Frankly, we Americans probably paid less in blood for our independence than you Canucks, Revolution or no.

Re:They have a headstart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822678)

Um, if you think that there was no violence involved you need to go back and read your history again.

(hint: if books are not your thing try googling "canada rebellion 1837.")>

Re:They have a headstart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822728)

I see your point. So how does that VAT feel?

Re:They have a headstart (3, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822190)

But they were also kind of dicks about that whole independence thing. So it all evens out.

Dicks? Well, I guess that explains why a Mr. Cocks invented pubic encryption, something used by nerds ever since.

Re:They have a headstart (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822198)

We owe a great debt of gratitude towards them.

But in this case, it's like they didn't even exist. Closed research doesn't push man forward. Quite the opposite, imo.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822382)

"boundaries of computation" in the UK?
GCHQ ~had Red, Blue and Colorob as post ww2 efforts around 1948-1951 till 1961.
eg. 1951 the UK's Oedipus had high speed storage via drum memory 10000 15 character phrases.
The NSA around this time had Atlas 1 1950, (parallel, drum memory), Atlas 2 1953 (parallel, core memory).
1958 Solo (transistors), 1962 Harvest (fully automated tape library). Harvest influenced ~IBM System 360.
GCHQ was mostly IBM (1960's IBM System 360, 700's) , Honeywell, Cray (1977) and now Linux.
1973 the GCHQ was sort of lost under a card index. The US had the start of Community On-Line Intelligence System in 1965.
Automatic Data Processing was ~1970 in the UK.
The new stuff can be ideas like voice intercepts. Get recored in a part of the world of interest and speak in the UK years later, guess what?

Re:They have a headstart (4, Interesting)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822384)

But they were also kind of dicks about that whole independence thing. So it all evens out.

Former colonies such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand were given full, constitutional independence when they had the infrastructure to support self-governance. American independence was not unanimously supported in the thirteen colonies of the day, however this was suppressed when revolutionaries used their largely French government issued weapons to intimidate, disenfranchise and suppress so called "tories". While no on can claim that America is backward or undeveloped today, the lives of the native Americans, the blacks and the poor all suffered under America's hard line expansionism and slightly regressive social policies during the early nineteenth century. While American political philosophy has evolved to justify that the winners of that war were unquestionably right, as all victors claim to be, it was a complex issue in its day and remains so.

Re:They have a headstart (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822434)

You know jack shit.

Australia

The Queen's personal prerogatives can be quite distinct from those of her governors-general, who are exercising her functions and powers on her behalf in a particular Commonwealth realm. The powers of the Governor-General almost invariably derive from a written constitution, so it is not correct to speak of a Governor-General exercising the Royal prerogative.

While the reserve power to dismiss a government has not been used in the United Kingdom since 1834, this power has been exercised more recently in Australia, on two occasions:

            1. On 13 May 1932, when Governor Sir Philip Game dismissed the Government of New South Wales.
            2. On 11 November 1975, when the

Re:They have a headstart (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822804)

2. On 11 November 1975, when the

Gone [wikipedia.org] .

Re:They have a headstart (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822402)

"But the British, maybe because of brains, maybe because of necessity, have been pushing the boundaries of computation for almost two hundred years. We owe a great debt of gratitude towards them."

Sure, we have indeed.

It might have been more helpful if we hadn't hidden all these advances under a rock and denied all knowledge of them for 40 or 50 years though eh?

Re:They have a headstart (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822664)

And most of their real work was done in secret, which means that many inventions may have been preceded by inventions for covert ops.

No wonder that James Bond had all those gadgets.

Re:They have a headstart (1)

jambox (1015589) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822690)

Cocks, not dicks!

Re:They have a headstart (1)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822806)

I imagine not brushing your teeth gives you a few minutes extra every day, and that adds up.
That slur is common, but is very out of date. British dentists have persuaded an entire generation to clean their teeth with Fluoride toothpaste. As a result, there is now so little of the old drilling, filling and extracting work to be done that most dentists are desperately trying to get their patients interested in botox injections, getting their teeth bleached to an un-natural #ffffff white and so forth, just to keep themselves in business. It is almost like the USA, in fact.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822020)

Maybe they didn't want to admit that cocks had been working out well for them, after all.

Me too! (-1, Troll)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822028)

This story is an amazing coincidence. I discovered relativity before Einstein, but I never published my findings. Do you agree recognition is long overdue?

Re:Me too! (1)

shawnap (959909) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822118)

I don't believe you.
In effect, what you're saying is that multiple independent researchers could make the same contemporaneous discovery.
I think Dr. Cocks would agree with me when I say I find that totally inconceivable.

Re:Me too! (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822178)

If you just do a little time travel then you could have verified his claim like I just did.

Re:Me too! (3, Interesting)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822454)

what about Calculus. Leibnitz and Newton within months of each other. Newton came up with it first, but didn't publish, then Leibnitz published, and Newton got annoyed, published, claimed he was first and there was a big kerfuffle.
In the end we actually use Leibnitz notation for calculus, even though most people don't know who he was, and think Newton invented it.

Re:Me too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822620)

what about Calculus. Leibnitz and Newton within months of each other. Newton came up with it first, but didn't publish, then Leibnitz published, and Newton got annoyed, published, claimed he was first and there was a big kerfuffle. In the end we actually use Leibnitz notation for calculus, even though most people don't know who he was, and think Newton invented it.

Certain people in college kept telling me that it was invented in Arabia long before those men were born. Eventually I grew skeptical.

Re:Me too! (4, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822268)

This story is an amazing coincidence. I discovered relativity before Einstein, but I never published my findings. Do you agree recognition is long overdue?

I stole Einstein's research, applied it to building a time machine, then went back in time and discovered it before him. I _still_ didn't get recognition and worse still, his research now claims that time travel is impossible so I can't try it again.

In yo' face! (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822640)

This story is an amazing coincidence. I discovered relativity before Einstein, but I never published my findings. Do you agree recognition is long overdue?

I stole Einstein's research, applied it to building a time machine, then went back in time and discovered it before him. I _still_ didn't get recognition and worse still, his research now claims that time travel is impossible so I can't try it again.

I went back in time and posted before you [slashdot.org] , even made sure it was farther upthread than your post.

Re:Me too! (1)

mayberry42 (1604077) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822812)

This story is an amazing coincidence. I discovered relativity before Einstein, but I never published my findings. Do you agree recognition is long overdue?

No worries, Mr Smith [youtube.com] . We all knew it was you all along.

Maybe he should have... (5, Funny)

Allnighte (1794642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822046)

Maybe he should have protected his work. Perhaps with some kind of ... encryption?

Re:Maybe he should have... (2, Funny)

Bl4d3 (697638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822300)

He did, but his colleges wouldn't use it because of its name: CBC - CockBlock Cipher

Epifany... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822072)

So that's what Al Gore meant when he said he discovered the intertubes...

Re:Epifany... (0)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822530)

Gore follows his web chasing Doc 'Ocks.

Nice achievement but ... (5, Insightful)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822078)

It's really not a milestone for anything if nobody can build on your results. It's certainly a great achievement to come up with an approach like that. However it contributes nothing to science if you don't publish it - the contribution was made by others. They weren't written out of history - they opted out.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (3, Interesting)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822092)

True, if you hide the research results, then you don't benefit the society and don't deserve the credit. The value is not in ideas themselves, but in their mass availability.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822236)

So, protecting state secrets is of no benefit to society?

Re:Nice achievement but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822276)

No benefit to science.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822298)

I wouldn't be so absolute about that.

I'm sure there was some benefit, just not necessarily in the applicable field. Maybe the British developed better methods for keeping stuff secret.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822338)

So, protecting state secrets is of no benefit to society?

No. Its only benefit is to POLITICS.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822424)

That seems to be exactly Cocks' stance, that it's an occupational hazard of doing secret work that other people will independently invent the same thing and you can't claim credit.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (1)

Clovert Agent (87154) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822662)

That's not logical, nor necessarily true. Just because _you_ don't know about research, doesn't mean it's not being put to use in a way that may benefit you. An awful lot of research at places like GCHQ and the NSA is conducted out of sight of the communities it is intended to protect.

You don't, after all, need to know the research behind a secure government communications channel, but you may well benefit (even unknowingly) from having a government that is less vulnerable to espionage.

At least, that's the thinking - the spirit of modern cryptography suggests that a solid crypto scheme is no weaker for being published. But hey, making it that little bit harder doesn't hurt.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (0)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822262)

no pity, own fault

BTW I invented the wheel long before Henry Ford, Karl Benz, Siegfried Markus etc...

Re:Nice achievement but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822354)

an you have this documented by a known third party like the government, right?
Fuck off troll!

Re:Nice achievement but ... (0)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822514)

Also, this was speculated about elsewhere - has been for years. Does this guy have any proof? It's a great thing to claim, and may let NSA/GCHQ apologists experience a warm feeling that they're ahead of the curve, but back in real life they seem unable to prevent stuff like 9/11, or even predict Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (2, Informative)

thePig (964303) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822638)

It need not be even their decision (eventhough here it is) - you create a product which is useful for the military, and say you try to patent it - for selling it - as per the official secrets act, the govt can take this idea/product and use it - and ask the implementor not to mention to anyone. From then on the guy cannot even publish it.
The govt does not give out proper compensation too. So it is not always voluntary.

Re:Nice achievement but ... (2, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822656)

It also proves that identical ideas can lead to identical solutions. This means that 'who came up with the first idea should get the patent' is flawed.

Patentability issues (1)

MasterPatricko (1414887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822114)

This statement from TFA was particularly interesting:

There were two reasons for not going ahead with patents: one was the view that it should stay classified, because it was for our own use. The other was the advice we got that this is mathematics and couldn’t be patented even if we wanted to. The rules in the US are different, which is why it was possible for it to be patented eventually in the US.

I thought even US law said that purely mathematical algorithms couldn't be patented? Can anyone shed light on why this was patentable (or is this another example of the USPTO letting through something they shouldn't?)

Re:Patentability issues (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822230)

I will defer to a lawyer if one appears. My understanding is RSA patented a process and the mathematical algorithms were a part of that process. The duration of patents here in the USA changed a few years ago too (how it changed I do not remember).

Re:Patentability issues (2, Insightful)

Wolfbone (668810) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822286)

I thought even US law said that purely mathematical algorithms couldn't be patented?

They can't. But what is a "purely mathematical" algorithm? Can you find one which, for some reason, could never have any useful application whatsoever? The RSA algorithm wasn't patented - it's use in encrypting "messages" was.

This is why the typical programmer argument against software patents, "But it's just math!", is futile and justifiably derided by the typical Patent Attorney. The proper (and extremely powerful) argument to use aganst software patents is an economic one.

Strictly speaking, not a pioneer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822116)

A pioneer is someone who blazes a trail that others follow. If the trail is hidden, and no one is able or willing to follow, then there is no pioneer. At that point he is just a guy hiding in a jungle.

The British team may have been first to discover something, but that is not what it means to be a pioneer. Ultimately, they contributed nothing to the field of encryption since their work was superseded by the time it became public.

They don't deserve recognition (0, Troll)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822156)

It was kept a secret so it couldn't benefit humanity (and public key encryption has been an enormous benefit). I don't really care if it was their job, I have really very little time for the silly secrecy around the "security" services anyway. Most of what they do is policework, and the police aren't a state secret above the law.

Rich.

Re:They don't deserve recognition (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822394)

Maybe you don't care, but he would obviously have been bound by the Official Secrets Act. Publishing his findings "so that humanity could benefit" would therefore have had some very real, negative consequences for him. The best case, I imagine, would have been losing his job. At worst, a couple of years at Her Majesty's pleasure. When was the last time you risked prison time by sharing your employer's secrets?

Re:They don't deserve recognition (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822466)

The development was made at the height of the Cold War. I imagine the secrecy had more to do with not handing a hugely robust encryption method over to perceived enemies at the height of a conflict fought through military intelligence, and that the decision was not made simply to annoy you personally.

So. Patenting. Obviousness. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822162)

So. Patenting. Obviousness.

All those going on about how RSA is patentable even though software because it was so innovative. Well if someone else had invented it too, it can't have been all that unobvious. It was an idea whose time had come and patent or not, it would be available.

One software patent we now KNOW didn't need a patent and shouldn't get one.

Great prank call name (2, Funny)

jurgenaut (910416) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822164)

Moe: Phone call for C. Cocks. C Cocks? Anyone?

Re:Great prank call name (1)

petaflop (682818) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822308)

Nearly. I think the canonical form for this name would be:

Phone call for C. Cocks. I wanna C Cocks? Anyone?

Columbus again (1)

Tuqui (96668) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822212)

The History repeats, Columbus announce his discover. The US Researchers published their work. But someone was there before.
Who is "The Discoverer"?

You Got Turing'd (2, Insightful)

mike260 (224212) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822250)

Dude does groundbreaking work, work gets suppressed by British government for reasons of national security, dude gets screwed.
At least this guy didn't then get force-fed oestrogen by the government until he killed himself, which is something I suppose.

More like lost in a mix of issues (4, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822254)

GCHQ was ready to talk of this issue and had all the press like 'kits' ready for a nice PR peek in 1984.
Then came the Peter Writes's Spycatcher book.
Thatcher was destroying any trace of union activity within the GCHQ at the time to, so the PKE release was dropped until 1997.
In the 1970's the NSA and GCHQ did not know what to do with it.
With "no" internet, one idea floated was nuke go codes.
The more interesting issue was the 1985 quadripartite (UK, US, German, French) to keep DES open to the NSA/GCHQ but safe from commercial rivals/hackers.
PKE was fought later with Clipper, key recovery, key escrow.

Re:More like lost in a mix of issues (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822712)

GCHQ.
Born to loose.
It started with America and Canada, India and even Australia gave them the flick.
Since WW2, Radar, Computing, PKI, TFT and netbooks (Clive Sinclair) have all been lost.
Textiles, Trains, Cars Industrial machines - gone or given over to Germany.
ICL sold to Japanese, Transistors (GE) gone, Picture Tubes to the Dutch (Phillips) - all national interest matters lost. Rover, Vauxhill Rolls Royce -memories. Apart from Glaxo/Welcomme and Dyson Vacuum cleaners - ALL British IP and industrial capacity has been lost, climaxing recently with BP to boot. All that remains is nuclear pride - Sellafield, and a strong gay navy and Dr Who repeats.

There is a pattern here, to a country of drunken soccer louts fueled by fish and chips and larger, all served by Pakistani settlers. That they sat on this for so long - confirms Britain is on the nose and ruled by Sir Humphrey's. If GCHQ is supposed to advance everything British, then they have been rooted by the Americans and the French.

.

Re:More like lost in a mix of issues (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822834)

a strong gay navy and Dr Who repeats

Could be worse.

Factor large prime numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33822392)

http://www.rsa.com/rsalabs/node.asp?id=2227

Here RSA mentions that because brits don't go to the dentist DES is dead.

If only we could factor large prime numbers as Bill Gates suggested.

"Dick" is a common british name, so his parents could have called him Dick Cock

It's all about presentation (3, Funny)

Byzantine (85549) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822560)

It's a good thing the Official Secrets Act prevented this from being news at the time. I'm not sure reporters could have kept a straight face reporting on the "Cocks Algorithm."

It really wasn't intentional at all (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 3 years ago | (#33822876)

Just that every time the editor for their papers saw the list of names at the top with "C. Cocks" in it they always thought it was a childish prank and erased his name.

To this day every time he gets pulled over the cops say "Come on buddy, your REAL ID this time".

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