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.

Source: Schmeh

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.

Source: Krapp

As can be seen on the following photograph, I had the honor of speaking in the same panel as Whitfield.

Source: Krapp

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.

Source: Krapp

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).

Source: Schmeh

Another great speech was given by Zodiac killer expert Dave Oranchak.

Source: Schmeh

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”).

Source: Schmeh

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:

Source: Schmeh

Here’s an exhibit showing a soldier using an M-138 encryption device:

Source: Schmeh

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 …

Source: Schmeh

On the following picture, Elonka Dunin demonstrates the use of an NSA umbrella in the giftshop:

Source: Schmeh

On the day after the conference, a few Kryptos enthusiasts met for a workshop hosted by Elonka Dunin.

Source: Schmeh

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


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Kommentare (10)

  1. #1 Klaus Schmeh
    23. Oktober 2019

    Bill Ricker via Facebook:
    Thank you!
    I would assume Whit is as engaging a speaker as he was 30+ years ago. 😀 What a dynamo.

    Any word if there will be videos or slide decks posted?

  2. #2 Klaus Schmeh
    23. Oktober 2019

    >Any word if there will be videos or slide decks posted?
    I don’t think there will be any official publications. Perhaps, I will publish some slide decks on my blog.

  3. #3 Klaus Schmeh
    23. Oktober 2019

    David Oranchak via Facebook:
    Thanks for taking and posting the photos!

  4. #4 Klaus Schmeh
    23. Oktober 2019

    Do you plan to post your slides on your website?

  5. #5 Klaus Schmeh
    23. Oktober 2019

    John F. Dooley via Facebook:
    Great pictures, Klaus!

  6. #6 Klaus Schmeh
    23. Oktober 2019

    FYI: John Dooley gave a great talk about the Beale treasure. He introduced some language analyses that support the hoax theory.

  7. #7 John Tokar
    23. Oktober 2019

    Klaus, so glad that you came again this year, and thank you for compliments. See you in 2021!

  8. #8 TWO
    Thule sanctuary
    23. Oktober 2019

    It looks like Miss Dunin has writing in the palms of her hands?
    Or is this a photographic arctefact?

    And what a lovely couple Bill and Jew Lee are. The new Friedmans are here.

    Pity about that terrorist Carlos.

  9. #9 George Lasry
    24. Oktober 2019

    Great event. Many thanks for taking the pictures. A link to my presentations:

  10. #10 David Oranchak
    24. Oktober 2019


    Yes, I will try to link to the slides whenever I get around to editing together the video of the talk.