Last week, the biannual NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History took place in Laurel, Maryland. Here are a few pictures from this outstanding event.
It was my sixth attendance of the NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History. This time, I was one of about 350 crypto history enthusiasts attending, which is more than ever before. It is planned to move the symposium to a new location in order to have space for more people next time.
It goes without saying that there were a number of great presentations. One of the highlights was a talk about William and Elizebeth Friedman, jointly given by Jew-Lee and Bill Briere.
The Friedman’s and the Briere’s have one thing in common: they met while working on cryptologic problems. In the case of the Friedman’s, it was the search for hidden codes in Shakespearre’s works that brought the two together. Jew-Lee and Bill Briere met while occupying themselves with the Kryptos sculpture, which bears encrypted messages. The two were (and still are) members of the Kryptos group led by Elonka Dunin.
The most prominent speaker at the NSA Symposium was crypto legend Whitfield Diffie, who lectured about the early history of block ciphers.
As can be seen on the following photograph, I had the honor of speaking in the same panel as Whitfield.
The two persons in the middle are Nicolas Courtois and Marek Grajek.
My panel talk was about the history of brute-force attacks. As usual, I tried to make my presentation both entertaining and informative. Among other things, I used cartoon figures for illustration.
In addition to my panel talk, I gave a talk about steganographic methods used by concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war. As this is a very serious topic, I decided to forego cartoons and lego models on my slides. Anyway, the audience was quite amused, when I introduced the story of a FUCK HITLER message hidden on a wall carpet.
The following picture shows my friend George Keller during one of my presentations. As you see, I had a huge audience, which was tremendously interested in what I said (I hope, you recognize the irony in my words).
Another great speech was given by Zodiac killer expert Dave Oranchak.
Dave showed that there is serious evidence that the second Zodiac killer messages is a real ciphertext and not just gibberish. I hope, we will see the solution of this crypto mystery some day.
George Lasry, who is mentioned frequently on this blog, gave two presentations, too. The following picture was taken during his talk on the Siemens T52 encryption machine (aka “Geheimschreiber”).
After the conference, many of the attendants met in the National Cryptologic Museum next to the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, MD. The following picture shows me there, typing on an Enigma:
Here’s an exhibit showing a soldier using an M-138 encryption device:
One of the main attractions at the National Cryptologic Museum is the gift shop. One can buy there, among other things, NSA T-shirts, NSA mugs, NSA spices, NSA christmas tree decoration, and NSA golf balls – not to forget NSA-branded stuffed animals …
On the following picture, Elonka Dunin demonstrates the use of an NSA umbrella in the giftshop:
On the day after the conference, a few Kryptos enthusiasts met for a workshop hosted by Elonka Dunin.
The people on the photograph are Jew-Lee Briere, Bill Briere, Klaus Schmeh, Carl Ellis, Peter Krapp, Elonka Dunin, and Nate Gueltzau. In spite of the huge amount of expertise gathered on one sport, we could, once again, not solve the mystery.
Once again, the NSA Symposium was a great event. I want to express my thanks to the NSA’s Center of Cryptologic History, especially Sarah Parsons, for organizing it.
Further reading: Rare WW2 encryption machine, “Hitler Mill”, found in Bavarian forest