How to solve historical encryption with modern algorithms

Today I present a video where Elonka Dunin and I explain how to solve old ciphers using hill climbing and other computer-based methods. There are also some other video and reading tips.

Deutsche Version

As I’m sure you’ve heard among my readers, last December I published a book with Elonka Dunin called “Codebreaking: A Practical Guide“. One of the pleasant consequences of this project is that Elonka and I have been invited to give numerous talks and interviews in recent months. While the talks are only virtual at the moment, I hope that will change soon.


The DEFCON video

It was a special honor for Elonka and me to be represented at this year’s DEFCON. With over 30,000 attendees, DEFCON in Las Vegas is the largest hacker event in the world. The presentation slots there are highly coveted. I’m all the more pleased that Elonka and I managed to get one, even though our topic is certainly not a classic hacker topic. After all, our talk was not about how to break into computer systems, but about how to “hack” historical encryption. More specifically, we talked about “Breaking Historical Ciphers with Modern Algorithms.” Meanwhile, this talk is available on Youtube (it starts at 37:25):


More talks, videos and podcasts

If you want to see more videos about cryptography and its history, you should have a look at Nils Kopal’s YouTube channel and at David Oranchak’s YouTube channel. There will be more talks from me soon on the following occasions:

  • On August 21, Elonka and I will be giving a webinar talk at the American Cryptogram Association’s annual conference. The topic is “Famous and Not-So-Famous Unsolved Codes.” There is no charge to attend.
  • On September 4, at Dragon Con, usually held in Atlanta, there will be another webinar talk by Elonka and me on the same topic. There is a fee to attend.
  • On September 20, this year’s HistoCrypt will take place. Unfortunately, due to Corona, there will only be a short online edition. As a highlight, David Oranchak, Sam Blake and Jarl van Eycke will present their solution to the second Zodiac killer message. There is no charge to attend.
  • On October 3, Elonka and I will be presenting again at the ICCH Forum. The topic this time is “Breaking Historical Ciphers with Modern Algorithms.” There is no charge to attend. The dial-in link is available on the Crypto Collectors mailing list or by contacting me.

There will also be a pre-recorded audio interview with Elonka and me on Spycast soon. Spycast is the podcast of the Spy Museum in Washington. The linked website does not yet announce the interview, but that should change in the next few days.


New publications

From time to time I write articles for the magazine “The Vault”. Currently there is a richly illustrated article of mine on post-quantum cryptography. It is available for free (page 18).

Quelle/Source: The Vault

A similar article has been published in German in the “DFN Mitteilungen” (page 39).

I am also happy to announce that the journal Cryptologia published a few days ago an article I wrote together with five blog readers Elonka Dunin, Magnus Ekhall, Konstantin Hamidullin, Nils Kopal and George Lasry. The title is “How we set new world records in breaking Playfair ciphertexts”. Access to the article is chargeable and unfortunately not cheap.

As the title suggests, this Cryptologia piece is about the various records in solving Playfair ciphers that have been set on my blog. The current record for the shortest Playfair message is 26 letters. If you want to improve on that, you can try your hand at a 24-letter message.

Another interesting new publication is the conference proceedings for HistoCrypt 2021. The associated event did not take place because of Corona. However, since there was a call for papers and corresponding submissions, a conference volume was produced anyway, which is now available online for free. Unfortunately, I am not represented in it, since I had taken over the office of the Steering Committee Chair and therefore – true to the motto “the referee is not allowed to play himself” – was not allowed to submit anything. Instead, exciting contributions from blog readers such as Eugen Antal, Richard Bean, Nils Kopal, George Lasry, Bernahrd Esslinger and Tobias Schrödel are included.

And finally, a very detailed interview with Elonka and me appeared on Substack a few minutes ago. It’s about the issues in our book. The title asks an important question, “Will Codebreaking Blow Your Mind?”

If you want to add a comment, you need to add it to the German version here.

Further reading: Das Deutsche Museum bittet um sachdienliche Hinweise


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