Here’s a selection of news related to cryptology and its history.

Over the last few weeks, my readers and other persons have informed me about interesting things that have happened in the world of crypto history. Some of these stories are worth being mentioned on this blog, but they won’t fill a whole article. So, I decided to dedicate today’s blog post to a list of news related to crypto and codebreaking without going into detail with any of these.


Free webinar about unsolved cryptograms

Today, Saturday October 17, 2020 at 1600 UTC (1800 German time), Elonka Dunin …

… and I will give an online presentation about famous unsolved cryptograms. The talk is hosted by the International Conference on Cryptologic History (ICCH). Here’s a presentation description:

There are many famous codes and ciphers still waiting to be solved, such as the encrypted Voynich manuscript and the cryptic messages from the infamous Zodiac Killer. All hold a special fascination. In this talk, the International Conference on Cryptologic History will be entertained and informed by Elonka Dunin and Klaus Schmeh (who also have a new book coming out later in 2020, “Codebreaking: A Practical Guide”), as we briefly discuss the encryption on Kryptos, the mysterious sculpture at the center of CIA Headquarters; an encrypted engraving on an early 20th century silver cigarette case; the mysterious art in London’s Cylob booklet; details about the message attached to the leg of a WWII carrier pigeon that was found a few years ago in an English chimney; messages showing up in bottles in the waterways of Hamburg, Germany; and the intriguing encrypted messages created by the mysterious Henry Debosnys while awaiting his murder trial in New York in the late 1800s.

If you want to watch this webinar, send me a mail and I will provide you the participation link.


Langenscheidt treasure hunt from 1994

Frank Schwellinger, author of Warum gibt es kein Bier auf Hawaii? (“Why is there no beer on Hawaii?”) and creator of the Ivory Coast cryptogram, has made me aware of a treasure-hunt game that took place in 1994. It was organized by the Langenscheidt publishing company in order to advertise a German-English-dictionary. One of the many puzzles that had to be solved is the following cryptogram:


The cipher used is a little more complex than a simple substitution, but it’s still breakable. The solution is provided on the linked website.


Kahn and Diffie inducted to Hall of Honor

David Kahn and Witfield Diffie …

… have been inducted into the NSA/CSS Cryptologic Hall of Honor. Congratulations!

As far as I know, only Americans are eligible for this elitist group. So, my chances to also become a member are zero, even in the unlikely event that my next book is going to be as successful as David’s The Codebreakers.


Advent crypto challenges

Like every year, the Karlsruher IT-Sicherheitsinitiative and the Pädagogische Hochschule Karlsruhe are hosting an advent crypto game for children and young people: Krypto im Advent. From December 1-24, there will be a crypto-challenge every day. The winners will be awarded prizes such as gift certificates, board games, and technical toys. The language of the website is German.


International Olympiad in Cryptography

If the aforementioned advent puzzles are not challenging enough for you or if you’re too old to participate or if you don’t speak German, try the International Olympiad in Cryptography (thanks to Eugen Antal for the hint).


An encrypted book?

Here’s a 2014 article about calligraphy and shorthand published on the blog The Local Yarn. It mentions the Codex Seraphianus and an old Scotish book. Apparently, the table of content of this tome is encrypted. I wonder if the rest of the book is encrypted, too. Does a reader know if this is the case?


Nils Kopal’s videos

As a reader of this blog, you might already know Nils Kopal’s highly recommendable CrypTool YouTube channel. Meanwhile, this program features over 60 videos about cryptology, crypto history and codebreaking. For instance, Nils explains how two encrypted postcards from 1907 are broken – both of these cards have been covered on this blog. The latest video is about breaking a DES-encrypted message with distributed computing.


Dave Oranchak’s videos

Zodiac-Killer expert Dave Oranchak has published a few nice videos, too:


Two unknown crypto devices

Jozef Krajčovič from Slovakia has encountered a short, but interesting newspaper article from 1939. Here’s an English translation of it:

A young Danish named Helgermhansen invented a machine called a cryptograph, with which one can find the key to each secret cipher. The Danish Ministry of War is studying the machine. The sale of a patent abroad was prohibited.

If you know anything about the background of this miraculous device, please let me or Jozef know.

There’s another interesting press report Jozef Krajčovič recently introduced on his blog. I will write a separate post about this story in the near future.

Further reading: A page from an encrypted diary written by an unknown woman


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Kommentare (8)

  1. #1 Eugen Antal
    17. Oktober 2020

    Two unknown crypto devices (Jozef Krajčovič)

    Jozef found some information about a new cipher machine (Czechoslovak design) called “Panmilion” in Narodni listy, No. 69, vol. 65 (11.3.1925).
    The first time I heard about this cipher machine was approx a year ago.
    I have found a different source mentioning the same cipher machine (but written with double l – “Panmillion”) in Dustojnicke listy, No. 7, vol. 5 (13.2.1925). It is a short and very similar article written one month before 🙂
    Some info about the machine (it’s mentioned in both articles): it can be connected to any standard “typewriter”. It can also work on 4-6 volts.
    Some info about the machine (not mentioned in the first article):
    The machine is very durable, and it’s hard to break.
    In the article from Dustojnicke listy, the new device is compared to Enigma. In the article the Enigma’s price is “50.000 Kč”, but the Panmillion’s price is estimated to “25.000 – 30.000 Kč”.

    I do not have more info about this cipher machine, only from these articles. There were many different cipher machines designed in Czechoslovakia, but none of them was called Panmillion. My guess is that this machine was not really used in the army, maybe the construction of this machine was reused in another machine design. It’s possible that there was also built a prototype because in both articles there are detailed parameters about the dimension and the weight.

  2. #2 Jozef Krajcovic
    17. Oktober 2020

    Klaus, many thanks for posting.

  3. #3 Nils Kopal
    Siegen / Krefeld
    17. Oktober 2020

    Klaus, from my side also thanks for mentioning the channel

  4. #4 Sino
    18. Oktober 2020

    Having read the above mentioned blogpost Unknown czechoslovak cipher machine by Jozef Krajčovič and Eugen Antal’s comment I am already looking forward to your upcoming article. May be you and/or some reader can tell us more about the Panmilion.

  5. #5 Thomas
    18. Oktober 2020

    Probably a mishearing: The inventor named “Helgermhansen” in the newspaper from 1939 was Holger Möller Hansen who had devised the “kryptograf” in 1933:øller_Hansen

  6. #6 Jozef Krajcovic
    19. Oktober 2020

    I found article about Holger Möller Hansen in swedish magazine Teknikens Värld, Nr. 14, 12-15 juli 1951, p.12, next p. 29: http://modellvä

  7. #7 Lars Dietz
    Laniakea Supercluster
    20. Oktober 2020

    Here is another very informative new cryptology site:

  8. #8 Klaus Schmeh
    20. Oktober 2020

    @Lars Dietz: What a fantastic website!!