What If Amazon Prime.Did Not Ask The Credit Card Code Codes and Codecracking Intrude Increasingly In Our Daily Lives

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Codes and Codecracking Intrude Increasingly In Our Daily Lives

Unfortunately for those of us who love tales of codes and ciphers, future books on this subject will probably only have a historical focus. This is because the evolution of cryptology takes it into areas of mathematics and quantum physics that are beyond the reach of almost all of us. And it is most likely that the Ph.D.s involved in this new work are in the thrall of government agencies that are unlikely to allow disclosure. It’s a shame, because the chance of mischief within government is generally reduced when there is some public participation and oversight.

“In the Modern Age,” writes Stephen Pincock Code breaker“, the field of cryptology is largely in the hands of physicists and mathematicians [and] Most of what happens undoubtedly happens behind closed doors. Government agencies such as the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) keep information about code-breaking and cryptography tightly secret, so predicting future developments is a fool’s game.

Even historical texts about ciphers and codes can lead us down alleyways that require intellectual stamina to read and understand. In fact, reading and writing anything is an abstraction, an abstraction that we take for granted when we finish primary school. Writing in English, as I do here, allows anyone who comes across my text to read these printed black squiggles and get a meaning that is not inherent in the ink or the page (or screen!). There is an aspect to it that is almost metaphysical. Yet understanding happens, whether I am a thousand miles from here, whether I am alive or dead, or whether I have been dead for a thousand years.

And with modest effort, my words can be translated into Finnish, Swahili, or Tagalog.

Translation into a foreign language is a simple analogue of codes and ciphers, a wonderfully intuitive way of grasping the process. However, the art of encryption and code creation takes this abstraction process to a higher level and in a different direction. By using codes and ciphers, we hide instead of revealing the meaning of the dialogues and texts we express, with the same quips we learned in grade school, we do it in such a way that only someone can reveal the hidden meaning and read the text. .

This process is the essence of both codes and ciphers, although they are technically different. “Cyphers are systems of disguising the meaning of a message by replacing individual letters in the message with other symbols,” explains Pincock, while “codes, on the other hand, emphasize meanings more than characters and tend to substitute whole words or terms according to a list in a codebook.” But that is a detail we need not concern ourselves with.

Codes and ciphers are specifically and inherently not easy to understand because at their heart is desire no to understand. And isn’t that also for their enjoyment?

Codebreaker, A History of Codes and Ciphers, From Ancient Pharaohs to Quantum Cryptography, (New York: 2006), Walker & Company, Stephen Pincock’s slick, short, coffee-table account of the subject. This book would brighten up any living room or library. It’s printed on heavy, coated paper and packed with high-resolution photos. This is not a textbook. On the contrary: this is a book for amateurs. It touches many sides with grace and ease without delving too deeply into alluring nooks and crannies. For the young enthusiast, it also offers many examples of codes and ciphers that one can try their hand at to see if they have the real cryptanalyst in them. However, do not plan to use this book as a guide to pass the CISSP Certified Information Systems Security Professional exam. Pincock’s training is in biology and chemistry, not code-breaking. Still, it’s an engaging book that will keep those who are already fans entertained for hours.

Stephen Pincock, who graduated from the University of New South Wales in 1991, is a biochemist. Since 2008, he has been the deputy editor of the paper Australian doctor. Former editor The scientist magazine and occasionally writes Nature, the scientific weekly. He wrote many books on scientific topics. He splits his time between Sydney and London.

The two areas of this book that I enjoyed the most were the discussion of the German Enigma cipher in World War II and how a group of Polish mathematicians broke it, later with the help of Alan Turing and a team of British cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park in England. ; and secondly, I learned a great deal from Pincock’s layman’s exposition of the complex mathematics used to account for large prime numbers, and how a brilliant teenage breakthrough in this area could jeopardize current encryption methods.

Arthur Scherbius, an electrical engineer from Frankfurt, invented the Enigma cipher for commercial use in the early 1920s. Thinking of protecting British commercial rights, he filed his patents in London as well as in Vienna and Berlin, an unintended favor to Churchill’s War Cabinet that was happily exploited twenty years later.

The Nazis greatly improved on Scherbius’ early design, which simply used three wheels with the alphabet written on them to encode input to output. It came out in readable text, coded gobbledygook, which could then be safely sent over the air without having to worry about being understood without the Enigma machine, whose wheels were turned to exactly the same position as the input device. It was actually a bit more complicated than that, with a few extra layers of encryption, but that’s basically all Enigma did.

The Enigma device itself was housed in a lacquered wooden box and looked very much like a hideously ugly typewriter and was about the same size, easy to carry, although it required electrical power.

Like all mechanical devices, the Enigma was prone to malfunctions, and it was these malfunctions, along with the carelessness of human users, that allowed the Poles and the British to crack the Enigma and read the most secret communications of the German High Command. . Those London patent designs didn’t hurt either.

Pincock tells this story very well, with great excitement and page-turning intensity. Historians still debate whether breaking the Enigma had any real effect on the course of the war, but we must not forget Winston Churchill’s post-victory VI. About his words to King George: “This is due to the fact that Ultra [the British code term for the intelligence gleaned from breaking the Enigma cipher] that we won the war.”

That’s a definite answer, at least for this reader.

A more modern issue concerns the way we use computers and the Internet to securely transmit personal information such as credit card numbers and health information. Cryptology is no longer just a military issue. Today, encryption is routinely used every time you use your Blackberry or order flowers online. And so it has to be done at high speed and without a lot of human intervention, and it has to be much, much more secure than Enigma ever was.

Modern encryption techniques rely on the oddity of some real numbers, a large category only divisible by themselves and 1. You learned about them in high school: these numbers are called prime numbers or prime numbers.

Here are some of them, actually the first five: 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11.

The list goes on and on. There are much larger prime numbers, including this one: 7,427,466,391. The two largest primes discovered so far (in 2013) each consist of more than seven million digits. The largest prime number has not been found – for the compelling reason that there is no largest prime number. There will always be a prime greater than the largest prime found so far. So, who cares?

Well, it happens that one can do interesting things with prime numbers that lend themselves to secret communication. They can be propagated together. For example, (5 times 7) creates a product, in this case 35, which cryptographers call a “modulus”. The wonderful thing about multiplying two prime numbers to create a modulus is that it can be done very quickly, almost instantly, on a computer. However, the reverse is not true.

If I give it the modulus of 35 and ask it to tell me how many two prime numbers to multiply to create it, it will take a few seconds or minutes to figure it out by trial and error.

Now let me enter this modulus: 440,191,461,900,225,377,727. And please tell me the two prime numbers that make it up? This is a harder problem (hint, one of the two primes is the big one I gave earlier).

Supercomputers may need five months of continuous operation to factor a large modulus into its two primes. Even larger numbers require thirty years of continuous computer calculations. Some may not even be hackable in the lifetime of our galaxy.

So, if I want to create unbreakable code, I can safely pass the module to the other receiver as plaintext, to use the artistic term “clean”. I don’t care if the whole world knows the modulus, including thieves and spies, because as long as the two primes remain hidden, my code is secure. Unless my adversary has a few thousand years of free computer time, he won’t crack my code.

And yet, and yet!

Consider this from Stephen Pincock: “As a result of the increasingly complex mathematical methods required to find the solutions, modern codebreaking is now mostly beyond the purview of interested amateurs and is instead the domain of mathematicians. But the tantalizing possibility remains that under the armor of encryption there is a niche that exploits the difficulty of factoring large numbers.

“Although the factorization methods discovered so far are mathematically complex, a simpler method may still exist. After all, the mathematics involved in Einstein’s theory of relativity is terribly complicated, yet out of the complexity came the beautifully simple equation E=mc2. So codebreakers around the world are focusing their efforts on finding simple factorization methods. If they find… ” then the current codes used by credit cards and governments could fall apart very quickly indeed!

And that’s where the smart high school student comes in. Above all, mathematics is the scene of the young and talented.

So listen and stay tuned. We may still need newer and better ways to protect our money and our secrets.

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