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Schneier on Security: Blog Entries Tagged cryptography

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Entries Tagged “cryptography”

Page 39 of 45

Da Vinci Code Ruling Code

There is a code embedded in the ruling in The Da Vinci Code plagiarism case.

You can find it by searching for the characters in italic and boldface scattered throughout the ruling. The first characters spell out "SMITHCODE": that's the name of the judge who wrote the ruling The rest remains unsolved.

According to The Times, the remaining letters are: J, a, e, i, e, x, t, o, s, t, p, s, a, c, g, r, e, a, m, q, w, f, k, a, d, p, m, q, z.

According to The Register, the remaining letters are: j a e i e x t o s t g p s a c g r e a m q w f k a d p m q z v.

According to one of my readers, who says he "may have missed some letters," it's: SMITHYCODEJAEIEXTOSTGPSACGREAMQWFKADPMQZV.

I think a bunch of us need to check for ourselves, and then compare notes.

And then we have to start working on solving the thing.

From the BBC:

Although he would not be drawn on his code and its meaning, Mr Justice Smith said he would probably confirm it if someone cracked it, which was "not a difficult thing to do".

As an aside, I am mentioned in Da Vinci Code. No, really. Page 199 of the American hardcover edition. "Da Vinci had been a cryptography pioneer, Sophie knew, although he was seldom given credit. Sophie's university instructors, while presenting computer encryption methods for securing data, praised modern cryptologists like Zimmermann and Schneier but failed to mention that it was Leonardo who had invented one of the first rudimentary forms of public key encryption centuries ago."

That's right. I am a realistic background detail.

EDITED TO ADD (4/28): The code is broken. Details are in The New York Times:

Among Justice Smith’s hints, he told decoders to look at page 255 in the British paperback edition of "The Da Vinci Code," where the protagonists discuss the Fibonacci Sequence, a famous numerical series in which each number is the sum of the two preceding ones. Omitting the zero as Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code" author, does the series begins 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21.

Solving the judge’s code requires repeatedly applying the Fibonacci Sequence, through the number 21, to the apparently random coded letters that appear in boldfaced italics in the text of his ruling: JAEIEXTOSTGPSACGREAMQWFKADPMQZVZ.

For example, the fourth letter of the coded message is I. The fourth number of the Fibonacci Sequence, as used in "The Da Vinci Code," is 3. Therefore, decoding the I requires an alphabet that starts at the third letter of the regular alphabet, C. I is the ninth letter regularly; the ninth letter of the alphabet starting with C is K; thus, the I in the coded message stands for the letter K.

The judge inserted two twists to confound codebreakers. One is a typographical error: a letter that should have been an H in both the coded message and its translation is instead a T. The other is drawn from "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," the other book in the copy right case. It concerns the number 2 in the Fibonacci series, which becomes a requirement to count two letters back in the regular alphabet rather than a signal to use an alphabet that begins with B. For instance, the first E in the coded message, which corresponds to a 2 in the Fibonacci series, becomes a C in the answer.

The message reads: "Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought."

I'm disappointed, actually. That was a whopper of a hint, and I would have preferred the judge to keep quiet.

EDITED TO ADD (5/8): Commentary on my name being in The Da Vinci Code.

Posted on April 27, 2006 at 6:47 PMView Comments

The Kryptos Sculpture

The Kryptos Sculpture is located in the center of the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA. It was designed in 1990, and contains a four-part encrypted puzzle. The first three parts have been solved, but now we've learned that the second-part solution was wrong and here's the corrected solution.

The fourth part remains unsolved. Wired wrote:

Sanborn has said that clues to the last section, which has only 97 letters, are contained in previously deciphered parts. Therefore getting those first three sections correct has been crucial.

Posted on April 21, 2006 at 7:54 AMView Comments

Deniable File System

Some years ago I did some design work on something I called a Deniable File System. The basic idea was the fact that the existence of ciphertext can in itself be incriminating, regardless of whether or not anyone can decrypt it. I wanted to create a file system that was deniable: where encrypted files looked like random noise, and where it was impossible to prove either the existence or non-existence of encrypted files.

This turns out to be a very hard problem for a whole lot of reasons, and I never pursued the project. But I just discovered a file system that seems to meet all of my design criteria -- Rubberhose:

Rubberhose transparently and deniably encrypts disk data, minimising the effectiveness of warrants, coersive interrogations and other compulsive mechanims, such as U.K RIP legislation. Rubberhose differs from conventional disk encryption systems in that it has an advanced modular architecture, self-test suite, is more secure, portable, utilises information hiding (steganography / deniable cryptography), works with any file system and has source freely available.

The devil really is in the details with something like this, and I would hesitate to use this in places where it really matters without some extensive review. But I'm pleased to see that someone is working on this problem.

Next request: A deniable file system that fits on a USB token, and leaves no trace on the machine it's plugged into.

Posted on April 18, 2006 at 7:17 AMView Comments

Security Applications of Time-Reversed Acoustics

I simply don't have the science to evaluate this claim:

Since conventional sound waves disperse when traveling through a medium, the possibility of focusing sound waves could have applications in several areas. In cryptography, for example, when sending a secret message, the sender could ensure that only one location would receive the message. Interceptors at other locations would only pick up noise due to unfocused waves. Other potential uses include antisubmarine warfare and underwater communications that benefit from targeted signaling.

Posted on April 5, 2006 at 1:06 PMView Comments

Quasar Encryption

Does anyone have the faintest clue what they're talking about here? If I had to guess, it's just another random-number generator. It definitely doesn't sound like two telescopes pointing at the same piece of key can contruct the same key -- now that would be cool.

The National Institute of Information and Communications Technology is trying to patent a system of encryption using electromagnetic waves from Quasars.

According to The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, this technology is used to take cosmic radio waves are received through a radio telescope, encrypt and then retransmit them. Because cosmic waves are irregular, it is virtually impossible for others to decipher them. A spokesman is quoted as saying that the system could be used for the transmission of state secrets and other sensitive information.

The radio telescope can decipher the information by observing the cosmic wave patterns emitted by a particular quasar selected in advance. Even if the encrypted data is stolen, it is impossible to read it without the appropriate quasar's radio signals.

The only way to really break the code is to know which radio telescope the coder is using and what Quasar it is pointing at. Only then do you have a slim chance of decoding it.

I can see the story on the home page of Nikkei.net Interactive, but can't get at the story without a login.

Posted on March 27, 2006 at 1:21 PMView Comments

Power Analysis of RFID Tags

This is great work by Yossi Oren and Adi Shamir:

Abstract (Summary)

We show the first power analysis attack on passive RFID tags. Compared to standard power analysis attacks, this attack is unique in that it requires no physical contact with the device under attack. While the specific attack described here requires the attacker to actually transmit data to the tag under attack, the power analysis part itself requires only a receive antenna. This means that a variant of this attack can be devised such that the attacker is completely passive while it is acquiring the data, making the attack very hard to detect. As a proof of concept, we describe a password extraction attack on Class 1 Generation 1 EPC tags operating in the UHF frequency range. The attack presented below lets an adversary discover the kill password of such a tag and, then, disable it. The attack can be readily adapted to finding the access and kill passwords of Gen 2 tags. The main significance of our attack is in its implications ­ any cryptographic functionality built into tags needs to be designed to be resistant to power analysis, and achieving this resistance is an undertaking which has an effect both on the price and on the read range of tags.

My guess of the industry's response: downplay the results and pretend it's not a problem.

Posted on March 17, 2006 at 12:22 PMView Comments

Huge Vulnerability in GPG

GPG is an open-source version of the PGP e-mail encryption protocol. Recently, a very serious vulnerability was discovered in the software: given a signed e-mail message, you can modify the message -- specifically, you can prepend or append arbitrary data -- without disturbing the signature verification.

It appears this bug has existed for years without anybody finding it.

Moral: Open source does not necessarily mean "fewer bugs." I wrote about this back in 1999.

UPDATED TO ADD (3/13): This bug is fixed in Version 1.4.2.2. Users should upgrade immediately.

Posted on March 13, 2006 at 6:33 AMView Comments

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