The NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History 2017 featured a number of very interesting presentations. Here are videos of a few of them. In addition, I will introduce three crypto puzzles I encountered at the symposium.

This year’s NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History was, like always, a great event. As many of the attendants and some of the speakers have a military or intelligence background, it is forbidden to take photos or videos at the symposium without permission of the persons depicted. It is not even allowed to quote a speaker without permit. As a consequence, there are no official videos of any of the talks.

However, some of the speakers recorded their talks on video themselves. In the following, I present all the symposium videos I am aware of. In addition, here are the slides of the talk And a Lurking League of Letter Openers: the Austrian Black Chamber given by Marty Busse.


Elonka Dunin: The hidden message on the Friedman gravestone

Already three days before the symposium Elonka Dunin gave a great introduction on the message hidden on the gravestone of William and Elizebeth Friedman (I published an earlier version of this video a few days ago; this new version is a lot better).


Richard SantaColoma: Is the Voynich Manuscript a modern forgery?

At the symposium Richard SantaColoma gave a talk about the question whether the Voynich Manuscript is a forgery. This talk was not recorded, but Richard made a slideshow video of it afterwards.

Richard has also published a blog post about the content of his talk.


Dave Oranchak: The unsolved Zodiac 340 cipher: features or phantoms?

Just like the Voynich Manuscript, the Zodiac Killer is one of the most popular topics in crypto history. Dave Oranchak talked about alleged hidden messages in the second Zodiac cryptogram:

Klaus Schmeh: Western-German Cryptology in the Early Cold War?

I was featured with two symposium presentations this time. The first one took place at 8 am on the second day. For all who missed this talk because it was too early morning here’s a video:

Klaus Schmeh: The Use of Steganography in World War I

My second talk took place around noon. Here’s a video:

Bill’s and Jew-Lee’s crypto puzzles

On the day after the symposium Bill and Jew-Lee Briere gave a great presentation at the NSA museum about William and Elizebeth Friedman. Both Friedmans were successful codebreakers. The talk was dedicated to their 100th wedding anniversary.


Just like William and Elizebeth, Bill and Jew-Lee met at a group that occupied itself with secret codes. In the Friedmans’ case, it was a research group in the Chicago area seeking for secret messages in Shakespeare’s works. Bill and Jew-Lee met in Elonka Dunin’s Kryptos group. So, there certainly was nobody who could do this presentation better than the two. To my regret, Bill’s and Jew-Lee’s marvelous talk was not recorded on video. So, all I can do is introduce two crypto challenges the two have created. The first one is shown above. Here’s the second one:



The binary coin

Finally, symposium attendee and blog reader George Keller showed me the following coin:



This coin bears a message in a binary code. Can you decipher it?

Further reading:

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Kommentare (7)

  1. #1 Rich SantaColoma
    4. November 2017

    Thanks for the mention, Klaus. It was a great event this year, as it always is… anyone interested in cipher and intelligence would love to be there.

    I look forward to 2019!

  2. #2 Thomas
    4. November 2017

    Thank you for the interesting insights.
    The token: “Centennial of the wedding of Elisebeth and William Friedman.”

  3. #3 George Keller
    4. November 2017


    For the record, I did figure it out myself, wasn’t too difficult, not even for this Matman.

    George Keller

  4. #4 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    6. November 2017

    In addition to the “wooden nickel” and bookmark that you show here, Jew-Lee and I also made a “Cryptocablegram,” which requires a 2-step decryption process. (Klaus, you might not have picked up that last one.) All three of these simple, rough-hewn cryptograms were given away, for free, to everyone attending our lecture. We have some extras and would be happy to send one of each item to any of Klaus’ blog readers, through December 31, 2017, or until our supply is gone. Just send your name and mailing address to:, and we’ll send them to you at no cost. If you want to reimburse us for whatever the postage was, you can do that through PayPal, but only if you’re pleased with the puzzles when they arrive.

  5. #5 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa
    6. November 2017

    Abo 🙂

  6. #6 Klaus Schmeh
    7. November 2017

    >Jew-Lee and I also made a “Cryptocablegram,”
    >which requires a 2-step decryption process. (Klaus,
    >you might not have picked up that last one.)
    You’re right, I don’t have this one. If you send me a photo of it I can add it to this article.

  7. #7 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    13. November 2017

    We’ll send you a hardcopy of our “Cryptocablegram.” (I’ve e-mailed you separately to get your postal address.) The puzzle consists of two overlapping pieces, so I’ll let you figure out how best to photograph it and display it here.