High-Level Computer Language Programs Are Directly Understood By A Computer Codes and Codecracking Intrude Increasingly In Our Daily Lives

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Codes and Codecracking Intrude Increasingly In Our Daily Lives

Unfortunately for those of us who like tales of codes and figures, future books on this subject are likely to have only a historical focus. This is because the evolution of cryptology takes it into the realms of mathematics and quantum physics that are inaccessible to almost all of us. And, more likely than not, those Ph.Ds engaged in this new work are subject to government agencies unlikely to allow disclosure. It’s too bad, because the chances of mischief in government are generally reduced if there is some public participation and oversight.

“In the modern age,” writes Stephen Pincock Codebreaker“the field of cryptology is largely in the hands of physicists and mathematicians. [and] most of what happens is undoubtedly happening behind closed doors. Government agencies, such as America’s National Security Agency (NSA), and Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), keep information about code and encryption under tight, making predicting future developments a fool’s game.”

Even historical texts on ciphers and codes can lead to alleyways that require intellectual perseverance to read and understand. Actually, writing and reading something is an abstraction, an abstraction that we take for granted since we leave primary school. Writing in English, as I do here, allows anyone passing by my text to read these printed black squiggles and understand a meaning that is not inherently in ink or on the page (or screen!). It has an almost metaphysical aspect. Yet understanding happens, whether I am a thousand miles away, alive or dead, or, indeed, dead for a thousand years.

And with modest effort, my words can be translated into Finnish, Swahili or Tagalog.

Translation into a foreign language is a simple analogue to codes and figures, a wonderfully intuitive way to understand the process. Yet the art of the cipher and the creation of code takes this process of abstraction to a higher level and in a different direction. Through the use of codes and ciphers, we have to hide rather than revealing the meaning of the dialogues and texts we express, using those same squiggles that we learned in primary school, and we do it in such a way that only someone with a “key” can reveal the hidden meaning and read the text. .

This is the essence of the process in both codes and figures, although they differ in a technical sense. “Cyphers are systems for disguising the meaning of a message by replacing each of the individual letters of a message with other symbols,” explains Pincock, while “codes, on the other hand, put more emphasis on meanings than characters, and tend to replace words or whole sentences according to a list contained in a code book”. But this is a detail that does not concern us.

Codes and figures are explicitly and intrinsically not easy to understand because at their heart is desire no to be understood. And is it not yet ready for his pleasure?

Codebreaker, The History of Codes and Ciphers, From Ancient Pharaohs to Quantum Cryptography, (New York: 2006), Walker & Company, is Stephen Pincock’s slick, short, coffee table account of the subject. This book graces any living room or library. It is printed on the heavy package and is filled with high resolution photos. It is not a textbook. On the contrary: it is a book for lovers. It gracefully and lightly touches on its many facets without delving too deeply into any of its tantalizing nooks and crannies. For the young at heart, it also offers examples of various codes and ciphers that one can try their hand at to see if they are a true cryptanalyst. However, do not plan to use this book as a guide to pass the CISSP Certified Information Systems Security Professional exam. Pincock’s training is in biology and chemistry, not codebreaking. Yet this is an engrossing book that provides hours of entertainment for those who are already aficionados.

Stephen Pincock, a 1991 graduate of the University of New South Wales, is a biochemist by training. Since 2008 he is vice editor of Australian doctor. He is a former editor of The Scientist review and occasionally write for Nature, the weekly science journal. He has written a number of books on science topics. He divides his time between Sydney and London.

The two areas of this book that I enjoyed the most were the discussion of the German Enigma cipher machine in World War II, and how a group of Polish mathematicians broke it, with help later from Alan Turing and a platoon of British cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park in England. ; and secondly, I learned a lot from Pincock’s layman’s exposition of the complex mathematics used for large prime factors, and how a discovery in that area by any bright teenager could put current cryptography methods at risk.

Arthur Scherbius, an electrical engineer born in Frankfurt, invented the enigma ciphering machine for commercial use in the early 1920s. Thinking of protecting his British commercial rights, he filed his patents in London and also in Vienna and Berlin, an unwitting favor Churchill’s war cabinet happily exploited twenty years later.

The Nazis improved greatly on Scherbius’ first design, which simply used three wheels with the alphabet written on them to scramble input into output. In the readable gone text came scrambled gobbledygook that could then be transmitted safely by wireless without fear of being understood without an Enigma machine with its wheels precisely turned in positions identical to the input device. It was actually a bit more complicated than that, involving a few extra layers of scrambling, but in essence that’s all Enigma did.

The Enigma device itself was housed in a varnished wooden box and looked a lot like a terribly ugly typewriter, and was about the same size, easily portable, although it required a power supply.

Like any mechanical device, Enigma was prone to breakdowns, and it was these breakdowns, coupled with sloppiness on the part of its human users, that allowed the Poles and the British to break Enigma and read the most secret communications of the German High Command. . Those patent plans in London are not bad.

Pincock tells this story very well, with great excitement and page intensity. Historians still debate the true influence that the breaking of Enigma had on the course of the war, but we must not forget the words of Winston Churchill to King George VI after his victory: “It was thanks to Ultra [the British code term for the intelligence gleaned from breaking the Enigma cipher] that we won the war.”

That’s a definitive answer, at least for this reader.

A more modern problem has to do with the way we use computers and the Internet to securely transmit private information such as credit card numbers and health care data. Cryptology is no longer just a military concern. Today, encryption is used routinely every time you use your Blackberry or order flowers online. And so it must be done with great speed and without much human intervention, and it must also be much, much more secure than Enigma ever was.

Modern encryption techniques rely on a quirk of some real numbers, which large category can be divided only by themselves and 1. You learned about them in high school: We call these numbers ‘prime’ or ‘prime numbers. ‘

Here are some of them, the first five, in fact: 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11.

The list goes on and on. There are much larger primes, including, for example, this: 7,427,466,391. The two largest primes also discovered (in 2013) have more than seven million digits each. The first largest has not been found – for the compelling reason that there is no first largest. There will always be a prime greater than the largest prime yet found. So, what does it matter?

Well, it just so happens that one can do interesting things with prime numbers that lend themselves to secret communication. It can be multiplied together. For example, (5 times 7) generates a product, in this case 35, which cryptographers call a “module”. The wonderful thing about multiplying two primes to create a modulus is that it can be done very quickly, almost instantly on a computer. But the reverse is not true.

If I give you the module 35 and ask you to say what two primes are multiplied to create, it will take you a few seconds or minutes to understand that by trial and error.

Now, I will give you this module: 440,191,461,900,225,377,727. And I ask you to tell me the first two that make it up? It’s a harder problem (clue, one of the first two is that big one I told you before).

Super-computers can take five months of continuous operation to make a large module in its first two. The increasingly large numbers are thought to take thirty years of continuous computer calculation to do. Some may not even be crackable in the lifetime of our galaxy.

So, if you want to create an unbreakable code, I can certainly transmit the form to my receiver to another as open text, in ‘the clear’ to use the term of art. I don’t care if the whole world knows about the module, including thieves and spies, because as long as the first two that make it up remain hidden, my code is safe. Unless my adversary has a few thousand years of computing time at his disposal, he won’t crack my code.

And yet, and yet!

Consider this from Stephen Pincock: “As a result … of the increasingly complex mathematical methods required to find solutions, modern coding is now mostly outside the realm of interested hobbyists and is instead the preserve of mathematicians, it remains that there may be a chink in the encryption armor that uses the difficulty of factorizing large numbers.

“Although the factorization methods that have been discovered so far are mathematically complex, there may still be a simpler way. After all, the mathematics involved in Einstein’s theory of relativity is horribly complex, but beyond the complexity is arrived at the beautiful equation E = mc2. . So codebreakers around the world concentrate their efforts on finding simple methods of factorization. If they find them…” then break the current codes used by credit cards and ​Governments can fall very quickly!

And this is where the brilliant high school enters the high school. Mathematics is first and foremost the arena of the young and gifted.

So pay attention and listen. We may also need newer and better ways to protect our money and our secrets.

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