Just like every end of year, I am awarding the Golden Alice for outstanding achievements in the field of crypto history and codebreaking. Here are the winners of 2019.

Like in the years before, my last blog entry of the year is dedicated to the Golden Alice Awards. The Golden Alice is awarded for outstanding achievements in the field of codebreaking and crypto history. There are eight categories.


Golden Alice 2019 for Best Codebreaking

In 2019 more spectacular codebreaking successes have been published on this blog than ever. Here are some of the most impressive ones (the list is not complete):

  • Magnus Ekhall from Sweden solved two Playfair challenges I published on this blog. Both times, he set a new world record.
  • Richard Bean from Brisbane, Australia, broke message B, a ciphertext left behind by British parapsychologist Robert Thouless. It had baffled codebreakers for over 70 years.

Source: Bean

Source: Schmeh

There’s no doubt that all of these successful codebreakers would have deserved to receive the Golden Alice 2019 in the “Best Codebreaking” category. However, I had to limit myself to one person or team. So, after some sleepless nights, I chose to award the “Best Codebreking” Golden Alice to Jarl Van Eycke and Louie Helm.

Source: Van Eycke

Source: Helm

Jarl and Louie solved two bigram substitution challenges I had introduced on this blog, the Bigram 1000 and the Bigram 750 challenge. Their work literally set new standards in breaking historical ciphers. It included the generation of octagram statistics based on 2 Terabyte of English text as well as newly invented techniques to store the results in a memory-efficient way. Never before had such short bigram-substitution ciphertexts been broken.


Golden Alice 2019 for Best Book

To my regret, I can’t currently think of a book about crypto history or codebreaking that has been published in 2019. But I’m sure there are some. So I need help from my readers:


Please send me your suggestions. I will add the winner to this section at a later point of time.


Golden Alice 2019 for Best TV Documentary

In July, there was a TV documentary about the Kryptos sculture produced by CNN. Elonka Dunin plays a major role in it. This documentary is available on Youtube.

The Golden Alice in the “Best TV Documentary” category goes to this production.

There’s also an interesting Enigma documentary made by Marek Grajek and others, but it hasn’t been shown on TV so far.


Golden Alice 2019 for Best Event

Of course, the HistoCrypt 2019 in Mons, Belgium was a great conference. I was the program chair, so I liked this event especially well.

Source: Schmeh

However, there was also the NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History in Laurel, Maryland. I have to admit that this event was much larger than the HistoCrypt, with more talks given and more people attending. So, NSA Symposium on Cryptologic History was the highlight of the year and therefore has deserved the Golden Alice in the “Best Event” category.


Golden Alice 2019 for Encrypted Book

Encrypted books are one of my favorite topics. In 2019 my Encrypted Book List has grown from 94 to 100 entries. Which newbie is the most interesting one? In my view it’s the diary of Ignaz Meyer, a 19th century teacher, town writer, church musician and attourney assistent.

Source: Stadtmuseum Aichach (used with permission)

The content of this diary gives interesting insights into the life of a 19th century individual who had a drinking problem and was not very successful in his job. It is a great example of codebreaking that supports historical research.


Golden Alice 2019 for Encrypted Postcard

Over the last six years I have blogged about almost 200 encrypted postcards. Almost all of them were solved by my readers. Among the highlights were a series of twelve encrypted postcards provided by Tobias Schrödel and the 44 postcards sent by Josef Fröwis from 1898 to 1900.

In 2019, many more encrypted postcards came to my attention and I blogged about them. The Golden Alice in the “Encrypted Postcard” category goes to a series of nine encrypted cards, which were sent by a certain Harry to a certain Charlie, both living in Nottingham, UK.

Source: Schrödel

These cards were, like many others before, provided by Tobias Schrödel. Thomas Bosbach, Armin Krauß, Michael Schroeder and Thore solved them.


Golden Alice 2019 for Newly Discovered Cryptogram

Over the last 12 months, I had the pleasure to blog about at least a dozen unsolved cryptograms I hadn’t known before. My favorite is a telegram sent by a British colonel in 1916, which is still unsolved. Tony Gaffney had made me aware of it. The encryption method used might be a letter-pair substitution.

Source: Bury Times

My readers provided many interesting comments about this cryptogram, but the solution is still unknown.


Golden Alice 2019 for Outstanding Work

Readers of this blog certainly know CrypTool 2, a crypto Software that implements numerous cryptographic methods. When it comes to performing codebreaking tasks, such as frequency analysis or computing the index of coincidence, CrypTool is extremely helpful. And CrypTool can do much more. It supports hundreds of crypto functions, including AES, RSA, Diffie-Hellman, MASCs, ADFGVX, turning grilles, and transpositions. Many of these methods are visualized, which helps the user to understand what is going on. All in all, CrypTool is a great crypto e-learning and codebreaking software.

Already last year, CrypTool won the Golden Alice in the “Outstanding Work” category. This year, the 20th anniversary of CrypTool was celebrated (actually it was one year too late, as the project started in 1998).

Source: Schmeh

I had the pleasure of taking part in the celebration, which took place in Munich.

The Golden Alice in the “Outstanding Work” category goes to CrypTool and the team developping it, including Prof. Bernhard Esslinger (Overall Project Coordinator), Nils Kopal, Armin Krauss, and Prof. Dr. Arno Wacker.

Congratulations to all the winners! I am looking forward to writing many more blog posts in 2020.

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Further reading: My visit at the Cheltenham Listening Stones


Kommentare (7)

  1. #1 TWO
    31. Dezember 2019

    Well deserved and good choices!

    From New York to Berlin the synchronization is complete as they say in Moscow

  2. #2 Jarl
    31. Dezember 2019

    Thank you Klaus for the Golden Alice.

    I get it why you say “after many sleepless nights”. The other people that you mentioned deserve it at least as much as us.

    Happy new year everyone!

  3. #3 Gert Brantner
    31. Dezember 2019

    Guten Rutsch and for many more cryptograms etc. in 2020!

  4. #4 George Lasry
    31. Dezember 2019

    PS: I think we should add Konstantin Hamidullin and Playfair-26 to the list above.

    Definitely a great year:

    1) More and more highly talented folks joining the blog and the community.
    2) Novel methods that are key contributions to the state of the art, further pushing the limits of what can be done in that exciting field.

    Above all, thank you so much Klaus for running this outstanding blog which stimulates all of us, helps extending the community, and also brings us together to work on some very cool challenges.

    Happy New Year, wishing all a very productive next year!

  5. #5 TWO
    31. Dezember 2019

    Happy New Year.

    Happy cribs to all for 2020!

  6. #6 Klaus Schmeh
    1. Januar 2020

    >PS: I think we should add Konstantin
    >Hamidullin and Playfair-26 to the list above.
    You’re right, of course. I have added him. And then, I added a few more. It’s really amazing how many notable cryptograms were broken in 2019.

  7. #7 Klaus Schmeh
    1. Januar 2020

    Tony Patti via Linkedin:
    Thanks so much Klaus Schmeh for your “Klausis Krypto Kolumne”, all your blogs about historical encryption technology, wishing you a happy and healthy new year, the start of the decade of the 2020’s! Tony