British parapsychologist Robert Thouless published a cryptogram and tried to transmitt the key after his death. I have started a similar experiment – based on modern cryptography.
Earlier this week I reported on British parapsychologist Robert Thouless (1894-1984), who published a cryptogram, hoping to be able to transmit the key from the beyond after his death. So far, Thouless’ experiment has proven unsuccessful. Since his death, all efforts to receive the key from the realm of the dead have failed.
My own experiment
In his publication, Robert Thouless encouraged others to start similar experiments. The more people try to send messages from the beyond, the higher is the chance that somebody receives one.
When a few years ago I wrote my book Nicht zu knacken, I decided to follow Thouless’ call and to conduct my own cryptologic life after death experiment. I took the same approach as Thouless, but I decided to use modern cryptography, namely the encryption algorithm AES. Choosing the AES for this purpose certainly lowered the risk of somebody finding the key with codebreaking means instead of receiving it from the beyond. After all, Robert Thouless, who had to rely on crypto algorithms that are outdated today, had to conduct his experiment three times in order to get one cryptogram that was not solved by codebreakers.
To my knowledge the problem of applying modern cryptography for life after death experiments has never been addressed in the crypto literature. So, I had to develop a method of my own, which made my book chapter in Nicht zu knacken the seminal publication in this field of research.
The main problem I faced was already known from this-worldly crypto applications. As the security of AES relies on a 128 bit (or even longer) key, memorizing a long string of characters is necessary. This is quite difficult, especially if it is an important requirement to remember this information even after the journey from the living to the dead. Writing down the key or storing it on a smart card was not an option, as I consider it impossible to take a sheet or a card with me when I die.
Can you take a password with you?
So, the only realistic approach was to use a password and to derive a 128 bit key from it. This took me to the next dilemma. Choosing a password that is easy to memorize yields the risk that somebody can guess it. On the other hand, a complicated password might be hard to remember after death.
To solve this dilemma I took a two-fold approach. First, I chose a password that was derived from a sentence by taking the word initials. For instance, the sentence “The moon, the tree, and the goose listened to music” leads to “Tm,tt,atgl2m”. This method is recommended by many experts (not only for life after death experiments). It leads to passwords that are easy to remember but hard to guess.
Second, I made the algorithm used to convert the password to the key especially slow. This prevents brute force attacks. My keyword derived from a sentence consists of a maximum of eleven printable characters. If it is less, the remaining characters are filled with zero bytes (a zero byte is a byte consisting of eight zero bits). As an AES key consists of 16 bytes, five bytes remain. These five bytes are filled with a random bit sequence, which equals a number between 0 and 1,099,511,627,775. If somebody wants to test a keyword candidate, he needs to try out all these numbers. This is feasible if only one keyword candidate is tested. However, if an attacker wants to check a dictionary full of possible keywords (i.e., if he conductes a brute force attack), he needs try 1,099,511,627,776 numbers for every candidate. This is a very slow process.