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Thursday, September 14 • 11:00 - 11:59
Klaus Schmeh - Breaking Historical Ciphers with Modern Algorithms

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Many old encryption methods are still hard to break today. For instance, cryptanalyzing a Turning Grill (a cipher device already known in the 18th century) is far from trivial. Many other encryption methods of historical importance can nowadays be broken, for instance Enigma messages from WW2, ADFGVX -ciphertexts from WW1, bigram substitutions, cipher slide messages, and double column transpositions.

This presentation will introduce a number of non-trivial ciphers that played an important role in history and explain how they can be broken with modern means. This will be demonstrated with original ciphertexts from past centuries, some of which were deciphered only recently. A number of interesting improvements in this area have been developed in recent years. Research is still going on.

In spite of all these efforts, there are still surprisingly many historical encryption methods (and original ciphertexts) that are unbroken to date. Among others, Enigma messages with less than 70 letters, double column transpositions with long key words, and numerous cold war ciphers still baffle cryptanalysts. However, research goes on and we might see further improvements in the near future.


Thursday September 14, 2017 11:00 - 11:59 BST
*Track 1*