New “Audio Guide Service” at the National Cryptologic Museum

April 30, 2010

The National Cryptologic Museum is at the forefront of preserving the US cryptologic heritage and has been working hard to get its message out to the public. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to hear that the Museum recently installed a new cell phone “Audio Guide Service” (you can see the press release on the NSA/CSS web site).

The Cell Phone Audio Guide Service is meant to be used by visitors to the National Cryptologic Museum. Many of the exhibits in the museum have an item number associated with the exhibit. If you have a cell phone, you can call up a service number, enter the item number, and get a two minute explanation of the exhibit.

Although I live in Israel, I do have access to a VOIP phone, so I dialed the number in the press release and got the recording. The problem was I didn’t know what item numbers to input when prompted. An e-mail to the Museum requesting a list of item numbers was promptly answered within the hour by Patrick Weadon, the museum’s curator. The item list (which you can download from here) contains the following topics:

  • Welcome
  • Introduction
  • History
  • The Civil War
  • The Zimmerman Telegram
  • The Black Chamber
  • Pre WWII
  • Enigma
  • Purple
  • WWII and the Pacific
  • Cold War Espionage
  • Secure Voice
  • Electronic Secure Voice
  • The Weak Link — People
  • Technology
  • Airborne Reconnaissance
  • Women in Cryptology
  • Special Recognition

Each of the topic listed has numerous sub-topics, so be sure to check out the item list.

It was a pleasure listening to excellent explanations about cryptologic and cryptanalytic topics where the terminology is correct and exact (e.g., no messing up the terms ‘code’ and ‘cipher’, getting their facts correct).

If you’re planning a visit to the National Cryptologic Museum you might want to wait until you’re there to use this service. If not, it’s a cinch to call them up and get accurate and informative explanation on some fascinating cryptologic heritage.


A Goldmine of GCCS and GCHQ Records (1914-1979)

September 13, 2009
The National Archives

The National Archives

Many thanks to Mike Cowan for a link to an internal sub-tree of The National Archives (UK) with a plethora of links to valuable cryptographic material related to the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) between the years 1914-1979.

Quoting from the web site, the site contains “general records of the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) relating to responsibilities for intercepting enemy communications, particularly during the Second World War, and for ensuring security of the government’s electronic communications“.

The records span the years 1914-1979 and included the following general categories:

  • Senior management papers
  • Soviet communications
  • Japanese military communications
  • Histories and personal papers
  • German military communications
  • Bulgarian, Croatian, French, Iranian, Italian Portuguese and Spanish communications
  • Diplomatic, commercial and meteorological communications
  • Liaison with allied organisations
  • Communications security
  • Field signals intelligence
  • Technical matters
  • Intercepted plain language communications
  • Wireless Telegraph Section
  • GC&CS Administration
  • Research Section

For those with access to the National Archives in London, there is material here to keep one busy for years.

Serious about cryptanalysis? Learn a programming language!

June 30, 2009
Example of cryptanalytic program written in Perl

Cryptanalytic program written in Perl

I’ve been a computer programmer since the early 70’s, about the time I became enamoured with cryptanalysis.  Writing computer programs to aid my cryptanalytic research has been invaluable to me throughout this entire period.  Sure, I have spent delectable hours solving ACA-type cryptograms by hand.  When I worked on more serious ciphers in university, however, computers have always been invaluable and time-saving. Read the rest of this entry »

Flickr-Based Cryptographic Photo Collections

May 8, 2009

You know how things work on the Internet.  A search for something in Google displays a link, which leads to another page, which leads to a third, etc.  Before you know it, you’ve discovered goldmines you never knew existed.

NationalCryptologicMuseumThis past week I searched for “PURPLE” in Google’s image database (I think that’s what I did — it was oh so many link clicks ago :-)).  Perusing the booty uncovered a link to a link to a link etc. until I chanced upon some cryptographically-related photo collections on Flickr.  I have spent many an hour since enjoying the eye candy there and in other locations.  I’d like to share some of these sites with you. Read the rest of this entry »

Easy Indexed Access to Declassified NSA/CSS Documents

April 27, 2009

The NSA/CSS Declassification Initiatives web page contains the following easily overlooked paragraph:

“An index of 4,923 entries containing approximately 1.3 million pages of previously declassified documents, which have been released to NARA is provided. The documents are from the pre-World War I period through the end of World War II.”

The links refers to a fascinating listing of cryptologic documents declassified by NSA/CSS in Project OPENDOOR (1996) and released to the U.S. National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C. In the very long, unsorted list one could easily overlook such gems as:

A Superb Cryptanalytical Guide to the Enigma Cipher Machine

April 24, 2009

Over the years I’ve come across many articles explaining how the Enigma cipher machine works. All too often I would feel, as a cryptanalyst, that many of the articles glossed over important features or handled them poorly.

Well, if you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of the Enigma, complete with a lucid mechanical description and mathematical underpinnings you can really sink your teeth into (and understand!) look no further. Check out Erik Vestergaard’s superb explanation of the Enigma’s mechanical, operational, and mathematical aspects. A Danish high school mathematics teacher, Vestergaard took his class on a study tour to London in 2007, and one of their stops included Bletchley Park. This site is a wonderful compilation of their experience in Bletchley, complete with mouth-watering, clear descriptions of how the Enigma works and how it was broken. Here’s a list of topics covered: Read the rest of this entry »

NSA/CSS declassified documents

April 7, 2009

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Security Service (CSS) periodically release declassified documents or indexes to these documents to the public.  This is all part of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States Government.

If cryptology and cryptanalysis are your cup of tea, just browse over to NSA’s Declassification Initiatives web page and dive in.   You’ll need a few hours to do this justice, so plan on returning a few times.

Here are some juicy finds: Read the rest of this entry »