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
  • SIGABA
  • 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.

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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.


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 »


Foreign Language Text Recognition for the Layman

May 1, 2009

It’s not often that I looked at a foreign text and cannot determine what language it is.  We can all tell French, German, or Spanish, but what about the different Cyrillic languages, or Far Eastern ones like Thai and Vietnamese?  I recently came across something that might help us.

The US Army Field Manual 34-54 on Battlefield Technical Intelligence is freely available on the Web.  Here is a description of this manual as taken from the manual itself:

chp_9_402This field manual provides guidance to commanders and staffs of military intelligence (MI) and other units responsible for technical intelligence (TECHINT) or having an association with TECHINT. It provides general guidance and identifies the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) used in the collection, exploitation, and dissemination of TECHINT in satisfying the warfighter’s requirements.

Appendix G, entitled “Foreign Language Text Recognition”, is a concise and educational lesson on how to recognize a foreign language in unknown text.

Quoting from Appendix G:

When TECHINT personnel are able to correctly identify foreign languages used in documents or equipment, it has two immediate benefits. First, it helps identify the equipment or type of document and where or who is using it. Second, it ensures that TECHINT personnel request the correct linguistic support.

This appendix contains language identification hints that will enable TECHINT personnel to quickly identify some of the many languages used in documents, on equipment plates, and on other materiel. TECHINT personnel can speed up the entire battlefield TECHINT process by following the guidance herein.

For those of us who are, um, a little rusty and have forgotten the difference between a cedilla and a circumflex, this appendix will set you right.  Gone are the excuses for not recognizing a foreign language when you see one. 🙂