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After Weeks of Trying, UK Cryptographers Fail To Crack WWII Code

timothy posted about a year ago | from the reopen-bletchley-park dept.

Encryption 263

An anonymous reader writes "A dead pigeon discovered a few weeks ago in a UK chimney may be able to provide new answers to the secrets of World War II. Unfortunately, British cryptographers at the country's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been unable to crack the code encrypting a message the bird was tasked with sending and say they are confident it cannot be decoded 'without access to the original cryptographic material.'"

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lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077213)

Linux on the desktop is stillborn. Fuck freetards and fuck linux. Eat my fucking asshole you nigger faggots

Re:lol (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077489)

Really, Mr. Ballmer, you need to take some anger management classes.

No surprise there (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077237)

Given that the original message looks supiciously like it was encoded with a one time pad, it's really not at all surprising that they can't crack it without the relevant pad. Which was probably destroyed a long time ago.

Re:No surprise there (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42077345)

Which was probably destroyed a long time ago.

Which is, some time after destroying the one-time pet?

Easy! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077413)

Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!

Re:Easy! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077659)

Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!

HHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

*dies*

Re:Easy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077931)

Wow, some people really don't know comedy!

Re:No surprise there (-1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42077415)

Exactly.

One time pads are not impossible to crack, provided you have some clues about detecting a successful decoding. A decoding that renders a perfectly structured sentence with proper spelling, and/or recognized jargon could be picked out by computer as a "highly probable content" from all the other gibberish decoding.

Even given the possibility of brute forcing the message, it could potentially be hard or impossible to recognize any "probable content" even after you stumble upon the correct one time pad combination by an exhaustive process of elimination.

Messages small enough to be carried by pigeon were most likely necessarily small, and probably not sentences build of words, but more likely simply shorthand codes for times, places, dates, numbers of items/soldiers, etc, where only the intended receiver would know how to parse the fully decoded stream into meaningful information.

Re:No surprise there (0)

ReptileQc (679542) | about a year ago | (#42077465)

That's what I was about to say. Knowing the algorythm, they should brute force it and look at the results. Even if the results are impossible to detect automatically, this is when slashdot citizens come in and sort through the information. :)

Re:No surprise there (4, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#42077683)

Nope..

it is possible to "decrypt" out of the ciphertext any message whatsoever with the same number of characters, simply by using a different key, and there is no information in the ciphertext which will allow [the reader] to choose among the various possible readings of the ciphertext.

Got that from this . It's an interesting read. In a message encrypted by a one time pad, even two letters right next to each other may not represent the same letter in the original plaintext.. [slashdot.org]

Re:No surprise there (5, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about 2 years ago | (#42078043)

even two letters right next to each other may not represent the same letter in the original plaintext..

Any cipher worth its salt will have this characteristic.

A one time pad is a mixing operation; a combination of random data with the plaintext being protected, using an operation that preserves entropy; which means that none of the randomless from the one time pad bits are lost EVEN though the plain message being encrypted is non-random, the result will have exactly as much randomness as the more random of the two bits being mixed, and therefore it is mathematically impossible to discover the value of a single bit of plaintext, without knowing the corresponding bit of one time pad.

Nor is it possible to determine the value of any single bit of one time pad, without knowing the corresponding plaintext bit.

Any attack requires discovering the value of the one time pad through an outside source, or exploiting a weakness in the pad, such as key reuse, OR inadequate random number generator used to produce the pad.

The only thing you can ascertain about the one time pad by looking at the enciphered message, is its maximum potential length, since you can see the number of symbols that are printed on the card, and that will be a finite number.

Re:No surprise there (5, Informative)

v1 (525388) | about a year ago | (#42077475)

One time pads are not impossible to crack, provided you have some clues about detecting a successful decoding.

[ citation needed ]

Here, let me help you.

citation [wikipedia.org]

In cryptography, the one-time pad (OTP) is a type of encryption which has been proven to be impossible to crack if used correctly. Each bit or character from the plaintext is encrypted by a modular addition with a bit or character from a secret random key (or pad) of the same length as the plaintext, resulting in a ciphertext. If the key is truly random, as large as or greater than the plaintext, never reused in whole or part, and kept secret, the ciphertext will be impossible to decrypt or break without knowing the key.

So unless you classify the key as a "clue" (rather than a cluebat) you need to rethink that.

Re:No surprise there (5, Funny)

jspoon (585173) | about a year ago | (#42077551)

Grandparent is getting OTP mixed up with ROT13. I do that all the time. It cost me my job once.

It's not ROT13 (1)

anonymous_wombat (532191) | about a year ago | (#42077983)

Grandparent is getting OTP mixed up with ROT13. I do that all the time. It cost me my job once.

I tested that. I even ran it twice, just to make sure.

Re:No surprise there (0)

arose (644256) | about a year ago | (#42077565)

Your citation is incomplete. Key reuse is one way to weaken the encoding without forking over the key itself, though this needs multiple messages encoded with the same key. Less than perfectly random sources can be another attack vector. "Used properly" is not just about protecting the key.

Re:No surprise there (4, Insightful)

BitterOak (537666) | about a year ago | (#42077607)

Your citation is incomplete. Key reuse is one way to weaken the encoding without forking over the key itself, though this needs multiple messages encoded with the same key.

If you've re-used a key, you're no longer using a one time pad. (Hint: Why do you think it's called a one time pad? [emphasis mine])

Re:No surprise there (-1)

arose (644256) | about a year ago | (#42077699)

No, you're not using it properly, no reason to define it away with true-Scotsmanning (would apply to the random part just as well anyway).

Re:No surprise there (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42078001)

You're really going to call that a no-true-Scotsman argument? Really?

Re:No surprise there (0)

arose (644256) | about 2 years ago | (#42078039)

Yes, otherwise there is no possibility of consider improper use at all.

Re:No surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42078035)

No, you're not using it properly, no reason to define it away with true-Scotsmanning (would apply to the random part just as well anyway).

This is not at all true-Scotsmanning. This is negative-duck-typing. If it doesn't quack like a duck nor look like a duck, it's not a duck.

A one-time pad that's used more than one time isn't a one-time pad now, is it? If you're trying to bludgeon this into a true-Scotsman fallacy, this would be akin to you saying that a Scotsman born and raised in Brazil is no true Scotsman, and, to be honest, that person actually seriously WOULDN'T be a Scotsman at all.

Re:No surprise there (4, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | about a year ago | (#42077743)

Your citation is incomplete. Key reuse is one way to weaken the encoding

Please re-read the entire cited text. Pay special attention to "never reused in whole or part"

(also, even a single re-use can completely compromise all other messages that used a given pad, if the plaintext of a single message encoded with that pad is discovered by other means)

I'm not a cryptoanalyst, but I play one on TV

Re:No surprise there (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#42078023)

From the GP's quote:

"never reused in whole or part"

I know reading comprehension isn't among the best of a typical Slashdotter's abilities, but really? It's not a one time pad if it's used more than once, is it?

Re:No surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42078081)

I know right, lol. OP clearly boded things in a way that implies they take precedent over the rest to emphasize the rest, amIrte. ROFL one-time pads are actually unbreakable by defition so OP is wrong anywayz because his citatiton is sElf contradictory acodring to yourz.

Re:No surprise there (1)

linebackn (131821) | about a year ago | (#42077831)

Aw, but according to the TV all anybody needs is a few hours, perhaps a larger computer than usual if it is "military grade" encryption, and a gui front end in VB, and you can decode ANYTHING!

Re:No surprise there (1)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#42077883)

Maybe they didn't wore any glasses?

Tried safety googles?

Still no solution? Then I have no idea.

UV light maybe?

Re:No surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42078073)

It is theoretically impossible to decrypt as there exists a OTP to convert the ciphertext into any plaintext of the same length. There is nothing to tell you when you have correctly decoded it.

Re:No surprise there (0)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#42077483)

A decoding that renders a perfectly structured sentence with proper spelling, and/or recognized jargon could be picked out by computer as a "highly probable content" from all the other gibberish decoding.

LOL! R U srs? Propr spellx? ROFL.

Re:No surprise there (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077501)

One time pads are not impossible to crack, provided you have some clues about detecting a successful decoding. A decoding that renders a perfectly structured sentence with proper spelling, and/or recognized jargon could be picked out by computer as a "highly probable content" from all the other gibberish decoding.

Your statement demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the one-time pad. One-time pads are not like other forms of encryption, they are simply modular arithmetic with a set of random characters. The encrypted data could decode to literally anything, depending on the key used.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-time_pad

Re:No surprise there (-1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42077581)

While that is true, you will note that i said probable content. Yes there are any number of equally valid decodings. However few will make sense in the context in which they were sent.

The assertion that there are any number of possible decodings only works when you have zero knowledge of expected content, and as such its a tired and juvenile objection.

Re:No surprise there (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#42077649)

You're right. If you know what the decoded message is, you can easily decode it without knowing the pad.

Otherwise, you have no chance if the pad was correctly created and used, as any character in the message can decode to any other character.

Re: No surprise there (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about a year ago | (#42077679)

I think you still don't get it: with OTP there's no way to tell appart "we must attack" from "I'll miss you.".

Re:No surprise there (1, Informative)

AJWM (19027) | about a year ago | (#42077821)

You're still wrong.

Here's a message encrypted with a (very short) one-time pad: 03 02 05 06.

Here's one one-time pad:
01 - add, 02 - retreat, 03 - flee, 04 - foo, 05 - at, 06 - once, 07 - rats
and here's another:
01 - zebra, 02 - attack, 03 - start, 04 - frobozz, 05 - at, 06 - midnight, 07 - gun
or a third:
01 - innumerate, 02 - tired, 03 - who's, 05 - and, 06 - juvenile, 07 - now

Depending on which one-time pad you use, you get either: "flee all is lost" or "start attack at midnight". I'll let you figure out the third.

Not very helpful, is it? The number of possible one-time pads for a given set of N words is N! (N factorial) (could actually be higher if you allow repetitions in the pad, which you should for common words). A common practice is to use a (specific edition of a) book as your pad, with page/line/word number as key. How many books, now?

Sure, maybe there's only one (out of all the millions of possible editions of books) that renders comprehensible sentences. But if the codemakers are half-intelligent they can confound that, too, by scrambling the order of the words in the cleartext in a pre-arranged way.

Re:No surprise there (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#42077967)

While that is true, you will note that i said probable content. Yes there are any number of equally valid decodings. However few will make sense in the context in which they were sent.

The assertion that there are any number of possible decodings only works when you have zero knowledge of expected content, and as such its a tired and juvenile objection.

It's not that there are "any number of equally valid decodings", but there is every possible decoding. If the word "APPLE" is encypted with a one-time pad into "XYZZY", there are potential one-time pads that will decrypt that string into "APPLE", "IPHONE", "STEVE", "WINMO", "GOOGL", "ANDRD", "SBRIN", "LPAGE", "BILLG", etc.

How do you know which of those is the "valid decoding"? How does your knowledge of expected content help you?

Re:No surprise there (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42078107)

Well, if its coming from Apple, I'd expect the word to start with a lowercase I.

Re:No surprise there (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#42078057)

He's right, you clearly don't understand how one time pads work.

With a properly used one time pad, ANY message (of the same length) is equally valid. Typically you salt the message with some nonsense or whitespaces too, so any message of length = the length of the encrypted message is possible.

So you can make up any message you want, gibberish or real words, and you have no idea if it's the real message or not. You cannot use frequency analysis, dictionary attacks, content hints, or anything else against a properly used one time pad.

You're thinking of simpler encryption algorithms that DON'T use completely random pads. Things like Enigma. If you know something of the content of the message that can help immensely in decrypting those messages, but again, prior knowledge, guesses or whatever have no effect on the security of a properly used OTP.

Re:No surprise there (3, Informative)

Ksevio (865461) | about a year ago | (#42077503)

No, a proper one time pad is random and the results will also appear random. The only vulnerability is if the pad it was generated off of isn't truly random or if it's improperly used. If the pad was used more than once or used repeatedly over the message, then there might be hints to decode it. Otherwise, you can brute force it all you want, but you're just as likely to come up with an incorrect "decoded" message as the real one. Since each letter of each word is coded with its own key, guessing the word "Germany" doesn't help you figure out if the word after is "attacks" or "retreats".

Re:No surprise there (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#42077691)

If the pad was used more than once or used repeatedly over the message, then there might be hints to decode it.

You mean one-time-pad-recycling? Like in environmentally friendly Soviet Russia . . .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venona [wikipedia.org]

Re:No surprise there (1)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#42077543)

One time pads are not impossible to crack, provided you have some clues about detecting a successful decoding

Not generally true (assuming a genuinely random one-time pad). In order to decrypt anything, and know you have arrived at the original plaintext, not some arbitrary plaintext, the plaintext needs more bits of redundancy than the length of the key; otherwise multiple possible keys will yield "probable content" when tried.

Because the key for a one-time pad is longer than the message itself, you're going to get every possible "probable content" as a candidate, because there's a one-time pad that will "decrypt" the cyphertext into every possible plaintext of the same length.

Now, English has a lot of redundancy, so if the one-time pad isn't really random, you might have something to go on. If you could predict, say, half the bits in a one-time pad from the other half, and the encryption was something as simple as XOR with the key, you could have some confidence that there's only one decryption that yields well-formed plain text: because in that case the reduncdancy in the message exceeds the entopy in the key.

This principle is the Shannon Something Length, but I cant remember the exact name, and half of information theory is the Shannon Something Something, so my google-fu is weak.

Re:No surprise there (-1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42077651)

But as stated elsewhere, messages are not random, so the laboratory exercise does not represent the real world.
When you send a spy in to determine the number of tanks crossing a certain bridge, you don't consider an order for lamb chops and left hand threded eels to be a proper decoding.

Re:No surprise there (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#42077815)

You still don't get it.

You might know that the message is 'The Commies have XXX tanks' where XXX is a number, but if the pad is correctly generated and used, the XXX can decode to any three digit number whatsoever, so that knowledge gives you no information at all.

Re:No surprise there (4, Informative)

Jappus (1177563) | about a year ago | (#42077839)

But as stated elsewhere, messages are not random, so the laboratory exercise does not represent the real world.
When you send a spy in to determine the number of tanks crossing a certain bridge, you don't consider an order for lamb chops and left hand threded eels to be a proper decoding.

Yes, but you don't understand the fundamental problem of your argument. With an OTP, the sentence "0 tanks crossed" is just as likely as the following:

"2 tanks crossed"
"3 tanks crossed"
"4 tanks crossed"
[...]
"144 tanks cross"
"346 tanks cross"

And so on and so forth. You can only run a reasonability analysis, if any of those above was less reasonable than the others. So not only would you need to know that there is a spy and that the spy counted tanks (instead of, say, planes or flowerpots), you would also need to know the exact number he counted and that the spy has not counted wrong. You'd also need to know how he phrased the answer.

In short: You'd need to already know the decoded message to say which decoded message is correct. The reason is very simple: In a One-Time-Pad, the key and message are completely interchangeable. Given only the encrypted text, it is just as hard to find the key as it is to find the original message. This is the ideal property all encryption methods strive for.

Re:No surprise there (2)

NF6X (725054) | about 2 years ago | (#42078079)

You can discount gibberish and orders for lamb chops if you are quite confident that the message was, for example, English text, and that "lamb chops" was not a code phrase for something like "crates of ammunition". But you still can't distinguish between "FOURTEENTH TANK BRIGADE WILL ATTACK ON NOVEMBER TWELFTH" vs. "EIGTH INFANTRY BRIGADE RETREATING WITH HEAVY CASUALTIES". In any case, code words, code phrases, abbreviations, jargon and spelling errors can all be reasonably expected in legitimate military and espionage communications, so without detailed inside information, you can't even discount a possible decoding like "RABBITS ARE RUNNING DUE TO CRITICAL LAMB CHOP SHORTAGES". For any given message length, it is quite possible to come up with possible decodings of the same length with exactly contradictory meanings. Thus, even in real life, an intercepted OTP message only gives you an opportunity for traffic analysis.

When properly implemented, one-time pad messages are truly unbreakable in the lab and in practice. Successful cryptanalysis of them is only possible when serious mistakes are made, such as using a single key more than once, using a key that can be predicted by some means, etc.

As an aside, Between Silk and Cyanide [amazon.com] was an interesting account of one person's involvement in WW2 cryptography related to espionage operations. If we can assume the author's account is accurate, then there was a lot of WW2 espionage activity using ciphers other than OTP, and OTP (in particular, OTP using letters rather than numbers) was a later development in the war, still further delayed by the complications of distributing key material. So, it makes sense to me for cryptologists to have made an attempt at breaking this recovered cryptogram based on the possibility that some system other than OTP was used to encipher it.

Incidentally, five-letter groups of seemingly-random characters is a common form for enciphered text, and is not specific to OTP. It's conventional to break enciphered text into five-letter groups to make it easier to avoid losing one's place when transmitting it by telegraph or teletype. Cipher machines such as my US WW2 M-209B [nf6x.net] or my Soviet cold-war Fialka [nf6x.net] even automatically space the ciphertext out into five-letter groups. It takes actual analysis of a ciphertext to determine what system(s) may have been used to create it. For practical purposes, there will often be information called "indicators" embedded in the ciphertext, so that a busy cipher clerk will know which machine to use and which key to load into it to process that message. There are extant examples of such indicator systems that I've seen, such as in WW2 training materials for message center staff. Knowledge of the indicator system(s) in use by a particular adversary can help a cryptographer determine the best approach for a particular intercepted message, such as "assume this message is a Playfair cipher from some low-level guy we don't really care about", "send this one straight to the folks breaking Enigma traffic", or "put this one in the don't-bother-trying box".

Re:No surprise there (4, Informative)

BetterSense (1398915) | about a year ago | (#42077593)

No. You reveal that you do not understand one-time pads.

Given a ciphertext N characters long, there exists a one-time pad that will decrypt that ciphertext to ANY clear text message. So if you have an N-length bit of ciphertext (as it appears these chaps do) and you brute force it and decode an N-length string that 'looks' correct (e.g. "The fleet has launched") that's just great...the problem is that THAT clear text is equally likely to be the correct clear text as any other string of text that long, including all perfectly-structured sentences, with correct pronunciation, containing jargon...in all languages...that long. And if they are salting and/or stuffing the clear text, you don't even have the length as a clue.

Re:No surprise there (-1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42077693)

And you clearly don't understand the real world.

Think about that. You don't expect a political diatribe or a recipe for cookies, when the spy is to send you the time for the air drop.

Use your head son. And consider the age of these messages.

Re:No surprise there (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077863)

So, which of the following is correct?

"Air drop at 2300."
"Air drop at 1000."
"Air drop aborted!"
"Pad compromised"

With a correctly used one-time pad you can never know unless you know the pad.

Re:No surprise there (1)

allsorts46 (1725046) | about a year ago | (#42077889)

You're still missing something here. As parent says, "Given a ciphertext N characters long, there exists a one-time pad that will decrypt that ciphertext to ANY clear text message.". That's ANY, not A LOT, or VERY MANY. So yes, whilst you could easily dismiss a cookie recipe, you're still going to get an extremely large number of plausible results, plenty of which will contradict each other. Your example of a time for a drop is particularly bad - 01:00 is equally as likely as 02:00 as 03:00 as 04:00...

Re:No surprise there (3, Insightful)

Pseudonym (62607) | about a year ago | (#42077595)

One-time pads are impossible to crack, in the sense that all messages are equally likely. Think about this for a moment. You can think of many plaintexts of that length. Each one could be the result of a different pad. Since those pads are equally likely, the plaintexts are also equally likely.

We do have the message length, and we also have some information in cleartext (e.g. the time it was sent and who sent it). That's it.

There are weaknesses in an OTP system, but they are typically due to poor key management.

Re:No surprise there (1)

NF6X (725054) | about 2 years ago | (#42078161)

You are right, except for one nit-picky detail: We only have an upper bound on the message length. It's fairly common practice to pad messages out to a five-letter boundary, so the actual message may be shorter than the captured ciphertext. We also don't know whether the sender used some letter to indicate spaces or just ran the words together, both of which are common and valid practices. Cryptosystems of the era often had no provisions for numbers or symbols, which would need to be spelled out in text. Sometimes a letter would be reserved for use as a space character, such as 'Z' on the US M-209 machines, or a different letter on other Hagelin-designed machines intended for different markets. It makes sense to use the least common letter in the native language of the intended users, so for example, the CX-52 machines could be easily reconfigured in the field to use one of four letters IIRC to represent a space.

Re:No surprise there (5, Funny)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about a year ago | (#42077613)

Messages small enough to be carried by pigeon were most likely necessarily small

So you're saying that this message was quite literally a "tweet".

Re:No surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077645)

Indeed. One theory is its a one time pad combined with a code book.

If a code book was used its be specific to the mission and long destroyed or buried in the archives.

It could be the first block decodes to DRG translating to 'primary target destroyed' or some such... Using such code words would make it impossible to tell when a message had been decoded properly because it'd be unintelligible.

Such code books were popular for saying a lot in a short message and getting extra security. They're essentially a book code so a level of encryption on their own.

Re:No surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077661)

if the one time pad is truly random the encrypted message is random and there is no way of telling what the message is unless you have the pad

if it wasn't so a monkey hammering on a keyboard would be writing Shakespeare, you'd just need to brute force the one time pad it used ...

Re:No surprise there (1)

Mr Z (6791) | about a year ago | (#42077843)

One Time Pads are indeed impossible to crack, if the pad is indeed used only one time, and is indeed fully random. That's because it makes any message that's the same length as or shorter than the ciphertext equally likely.

If I sent you the ciphertext PDXS, how would you know if it decoded to "EAST", "WEST", or any other four letter word?

Re:No surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077965)

LOL, good joke.

Re:No surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42078123)

I can't believe this idiocy was modded +2, Informative. It shows a blatant misunderstanding of OTPs, something so incredibly simple.

Re:No surprise there (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#42077485)

...looks supiciously like it was encoded with a one time pad

Exactly. One time pad encryption the most secure. Unless they can track down the encrypting agent, he's (she's) still alive, and lucid enough to speak, its not happening. Or they find a code book with that day's pad in it, in a long forgotten room or something.

Packet Loss (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077255)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_over_Avian_Carriers

Re:Packet Loss (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077379)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_over_Avian_Carriers

This packet wasn't lost. It was just delayed in transit.

Maybe they should try (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077279)

Pigeon. It is a difficult and nuanced language but there are plenty of speakers.

It was easy with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077287)

Little Orphan Annie's secret decoder ring.

It says: BESUR ETODR INKYO UROVA LTINE

Which is WWII code for staying hydrated w/ vitamins.

Re:It was easy with... (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about a year ago | (#42077435)

ironic timing...my wife makes me sit and watch a christmas story every thanksgiving eve

Re:It was easy with... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#42077507)

You could make her watch my brother's favorite Christmas movie: Die Hard.

Weeks (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about a year ago | (#42077301)

Should give it some time before one calls it quits.

Re:Weeks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077417)

Indeed. Lacking the one-time pad, this is simply a matter of having enough computing power. Waiting a hundred years may provide us with enough computing power to crack the code in a matter of centuries.

Re:Weeks (5, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year ago | (#42077647)

You would seem to miss the point. Here's a message encrypted with a one-time pad: WXYZ. Want to brute-force it? OK, try all the permutations of four letters that can exist in the OTP (36^4 of them, if the pad accommodates English letters and digits). Spoiler alert: One of those permutations will yield LOVE. Another will yield HATE. Which one is the correct message?

Re:Weeks (2)

drkim (1559875) | about a year ago | (#42077711)

...One of those permutations will yield LOVE. Another will yield HATE. Which one is the correct message?

Considering this is /. probably: NERD

Re:Weeks (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year ago | (#42077479)

It very much looks like they quickly concluded that it was encrypted with a one-time pad [wikipedia.org] . Bearing in mind that this was encrypted using practices devised by the same institution that's trying to decrypt it now, this conclusion can't be difficult to reach. Now, a truly random OTP with a length that is equal to or longer than the length of the message has been mathematically proven to be 100% secure against cryptanalysis by anyone who doesn't have the key. So that's what they're doing now - figuring out if the key is archived somewhere.

Cracked! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077309)

I just installed windows XP using the first row.

Cannot be decoded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077321)

Have they tried a german dictionary yet?

The answer (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#42077331)

Eggs, Milk, Cheese, Bell Peppers, Ham and Onions... ...it's the recipe for my typical omlette!!

Re:The answer (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about a year ago | (#42077675)

Ah, but in the UK, they're called "sweet peppers" or just "peppers". Maybe it's a duress code?

Be sure to drink (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about a year ago | (#42077343)

OVOMALTINE!

http://www.ovomaltine.com/ [ovomaltine.com]

BTW light wheat malt, fresh milk and fresh chocolate syrup is tastier but not as convienient. For an improved taste use sprouted wheat flour ala diastatic malt. This is the only ahref=http://www.ehow.com/how_4620081_sprouted-wheat-flour-diastatic-malt.htmlrel=url2html-22218 [slashdot.org] http://www.ehow.com/how_4620081_sprouted-wheat-flour-diastatic-malt.html> place I could find it.

Yes it is on topic if you know history. ;)

Done (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | about a year ago | (#42077349)

"Dearest Benito, bunker is boring. Eva going stir crazy. Any idea how Battle for Berlin going?"

Re:Done (1)

drkim (1559875) | about a year ago | (#42077731)

Shouldn't someone do a "Hitler Rants" subtitled clip for this already?

Paging..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077355)

Paging DVD Jon, to reception please...

There's an Idiocracy joke in here somewhere. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077367)

WWII had codes we can't crack but governments today are routinely hacked and their passwords dumped in pastebin?

Re:There's an Idiocracy joke in here somewhere. (0)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42077437)

For all we know 4 or 5 pigeons were released, each with only every 4th or 5th letter of the text, all encoded differently.
With that kind of packet loss even three letter agencies would be at a loss

Re:There's an Idiocracy joke in here somewhere. (1)

drkim (1559875) | about a year ago | (#42077739)

For all we know 4 or 5 pigeons were released, each with only every 4th or 5th letter of the text, all encoded differently.
With that kind of packet loss even three letter agencies would be at a loss

...and this might only be the "CheckSum" pigeon...

Re:There's an Idiocracy joke in here somewhere. (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about a year ago | (#42077491)

The bits of government responsible for creating and maintaining cyphers are different to the bits of government that use them; the problem is generally with the end users.

Re:There's an Idiocracy joke in here somewhere. (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#42077577)

WWII had codes we can't crack but governments today are routinely hacked and their passwords dumped in pastebin?

Only because things have to be decrypted at some point. The cryptographic primitives (symmetric encryption, public/private encryption, hashes, MACs etc.) don't change much and have been pretty much rock solid. People still use RSA as invented in the 1970s, except with longer keys. I don't recall any mainstream symmetric cipher being broken either, DES had too short keys (56 bits) but you still have to brute force it. If all you have is an encrypted message you'll get nowhere in 2012 with RSA/AES, you'd get nowhere in 1991 with PGP using RSA/IDEA and you'd get nowhere in WWII with this pigeon code. Back then you could break into the pigeon farm and find their codes, today you can break into servers and find their keys. Not much has changed there either.

It probably said: (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | about a year ago | (#42077395)

pleas ebloc kallc himne ysstu pidpi geons

Re:It probably said: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077429)

pleas ebloc kallc himne ysstu pidpi geons

gean yus

So then..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077425)

If Highly trained and I suspect well paid crypto experts can't handle it, only one thing left to do.

Post it on the internet and watch it decrypt faster than a Valve ARG game.

Maybe it was a fake... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year ago | (#42077443)

... a joke someone intentionally left... it can't be crecked because its not encrypted.

Get Valve to post it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077451)

And claim it holds secrets to Half Life Ep 3 and it will be cracked in hours.

Dumb down (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077467)

People today are idiots. Their the product of liberalsim, socialism and communism. The college I went to gave out the test answers the day before the test. actually "went over" the actual test the previous day. anybody want to guess why? thats right,so all the IDIOTS would pass. this country is beyond help, without divine interaction that is. People today couldn't figure out squat.

Re:Dumb down (1)

pluther (647209) | about a year ago | (#42077677)

When you are complaining about how stupid other people are, you really should make an effort to use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Your post failed at all three, in addition to your lack of understanding of how capital letters work.

Re:Dumb down (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#42077781)

In addition to being too dumb to figure out how to register for an account.

Its worse than that. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077469)

My Aunt was a radio communication specialist in the channel islands where they communicated with the underground and later the anti Nazis within the third reich. My Dad was involved in counter espionage within Great Britton. They were both recruited by the Canadian military and then trained by the combined British and Canadian military intelligence division long before the US joined in.

Not only was key info done with one time cipher it also used specialist language. For instance the word pie after decryption might be construed to be to mean supplies. Only the individuals who were taught the language could decode it and no more than a few individual agents sending info from within Germany or France used the same code specific language.

If the pigeon corpse was from D Day then it would have been really early in the landing. As the beach head was secured the code receiving specialist people moved in to undisclosed places in Normandy. Are they absolutely certain the pigeon was from D Day? If not it may have been from other sources as my aunt told me there was some underground agents using them before 1944...Some even in the Dieppe region!

Re:Its worse than that. (2)

ewanm89 (1052822) | about a year ago | (#42077759)

The message was sent to GCHQ in Cheltnam to decode, GCHQ is what replaced the Government Code and Cipher School which was based at Bletchley Park and had 2 tasks: 1) keep our communications secure using codes and ciphers and 2) break AXIS codes and ciphers. People focus on the second one but the first is also important and we were very good at both parts. Now they kept copies of the code books like you describe (our bomber crews replaced them regularly and were charged with burning their copies if they crashed), these were mostly used for spoken communication where one is still saying words into a radio. I expect they just can't figure out which cipher key was used as this is a cipher not a code. And they would just have to go through the codebooks to find the right one if they found it was a code too.

Re:Its worse than that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42078125)

The message was sent to GCHQ in Cheltnam to decode, GCHQ is what replaced the Government Code and Cipher School which was based at Bletchley Park

Thanks ;-)
Most of what my Aunt sent came from GCHQ. So we can assume the pigeon is post August1942 Dieppe for the reason you stated? Oddly enough much of what happened to my Father is still classified as there are still some family members who would be hurt by the truth about what happened in England and the covert events surrounding Dieppe!

Re:Its worse than that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42078061)

So is it safe to say, then, that they were Dieppe undercover?

onetime pad vs code designed for a single mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077539)

"Code breakers believe there are at least two possibilities for how the message was encrypted, and why it’s so hard to decrypt. It may be based on a “onetime pad” that uses a random set of letters (known only to the sender and the recipient) or on a now probably destroyed code book designed specifically for a single operation or mission."

isn't a "on a now probably destroyed code book designed specifically for a single operation or mission." a onetime pad technically. if not, what is it?

Re:onetime pad vs code designed for a single missi (1)

drkim (1559875) | about a year ago | (#42077775)

...a now probably destroyed code book designed specifically for a single operation or mission...

Perhaps it is possible that the MOD still has a backup of the book/pad. While a field agent would tear off and destroy one-time pad pages, the HQ would retain the original.

Re:onetime pad vs code designed for a single missi (1)

Mr Z (6791) | about a year ago | (#42077979)

You could design a single-use code that isn't a random pad, such as assigning meanings to sequences of letters, in essence making a set of "words" for that mission. For example, "CQ" might mean "soldiers", "TQ" might mean tanks, etc. Notice in the ciphertext, the triad JRZ is repeated twice and the first and last 5 characters are the same.

That said, spot checking a few letters, it appears the distribution is pretty flat, suggesting an OTP. If you strike the last 5 letters (assume they're a repeat of the first 5, a sort of framing protocol), you'd expect each letter of the alphabet to get used around 5 times, and that's about what I see.

The Next Step. (2)

gallondr00nk (868673) | about a year ago | (#42077541)

In the UK, in our authoritarian wisdom, we made it illegal not to provide passwords or decryption to encrypted material.

GCHQ are now well within their rights to arrest the pigeon to learn it's secrets.

Re:The Next Step. (1)

vux984 (928602) | about a year ago | (#42077913)

GCHQ are now well within their rights to arrest the pigeon to learn it's secrets.

http://xkcd.com/538/ [xkcd.com]

Looks like we've found an edge case where that might not work. I'm not putting it past them trying though.

Fawlty Towers, pigeon scene (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077597)

/.'rs already told you what it said - (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42077605)

Drink more Ovaltine!

What if that is the one time pad? (4, Interesting)

LordZardoz (155141) | about a year ago | (#42077919)

What if that is not an encrypted message, but the encryption key for a message?

I am not a cryptography expert, but I suppose there would be no way to discern the two right?

If it is the key and not a message, than no amount of decryption effort would matter.

END COMMUNICATION

Have the tried India? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#42078065)

When all the old Cobol programmers were dead are retired, and the y2k hysteria descended up on us, they found a large and active community of cobol programmers in India. May be the Indian Army is still using the techniques they learnt from the Brits to get secret messages our of Islamabad and Lahore, Pakistan to the Research and Analysis Wing in New Delhi. So check them out. Some Havaldar-Major Harpreet Singh, 109th Signal Company, 7th Punjab Guards might recognize the code.
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