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Subject: Cryptography FAQ (09/10: Other Miscellany)

This article was archived around: 19 Mar 2003 10:52:37 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: cryptography-faq
All FAQs posted in: sci.crypt, talk.politics.crypto
Source: Usenet Version


Archive-name: cryptography-faq/part09 Last-modified: 94/06/07
This is the ninth of ten parts of the sci.crypt FAQ. The parts are mostly independent, but you should read the first part before the rest. We don't have the time to send out missing parts by mail, so don't ask. Notes such as ``[KAH67]'' refer to the reference list in the last part. The sections of this FAQ are available via anonymous FTP to rtfm.mit.edu as /pub/usenet/news.answers/cryptography-faq/part[xx]. The Cryptography FAQ is posted to the newsgroups sci.crypt, talk.politics.crypto, sci.answers, and news.answers every 21 days. Contents: 9.1. What is the National Security Agency (NSA)? 9.2. What are the US export regulations? 9.3. What is TEMPEST? 9.4. What are the Beale Ciphers, and are they a hoax? 9.5. What is the American Cryptogram Association, and how do I get in touch? 9.6. Is RSA patented? 9.7. What about the Voynich manuscript? 9.1. What is the National Security Agency (NSA)? The NSA is the official communications security body of the U.S. government. It was given its charter by President Truman in the early 50's, and has continued research in cryptology till the present. The NSA is known to be the largest employer of mathematicians in the world, and is also the largest purchaser of computer hardware in the world. Governments in general have always been prime employers of cryptologists. The NSA probably possesses cryptographic expertise many years ahead of the public state of the art, and can undoubtedly break many of the systems used in practice; but for reasons of national security almost all information about the NSA is classified. Bamford's book [BAMFD] gives a history of the people and operations of the NSA. The following quote from Massey [MAS88] highlights the difference between public and private research in cryptography: ``... if one regards cryptology as the prerogative of government, one accepts that most cryptologic research will be conducted behind closed doors. Without doubt, the number of workers engaged today in such secret research in cryptology far exceeds that of those engaged in open research in cryptology. For only about 10 years has there in fact been widespread open research in cryptology. There have been, and will continue to be, conflicts between these two research communities. Open research is common quest for knowledge that depends for its vitality on the open exchange of ideas via conference presentations and publications in scholarly journals. But can a government agency, charged with responsibilities of breaking the ciphers of other nations, countenance the publication of a cipher that it cannot break? Can a researcher in good conscience publish such a cipher that might undermine the effectiveness of his own government's code-breakers? One might argue that publication of a provably-secure cipher would force all governments to behave like Stimson's `gentlemen', but one must be aware that open research in cryptography is fraught with political and ethical considerations of a severity than in most scientific fields. The wonder is not that some conflicts have occurred between government agencies and open researchers in cryptology, but rather that these conflicts (at least those of which we are aware) have been so few and so mild.'' 9.2. What are the US export regulations? In a nutshell, there are two government agencies which control export of encryption software. One is the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) in the Department of Commerce, authorized by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Another is the Office of Defense Trade Controls (DTC) in the State Department, authorized by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). As a rule of thumb, BXA (which works with COCOM) has less stringent requirements, but DTC (which takes orders from NSA) wants to see everything first and can refuse to transfer jurisdiction to BXA. The newsgroup misc.legal.computing carries many interesting discussions on the laws surrounding cryptographic export, what people think about those laws, and many other complex issues which go beyond the scope of technical groups like sci.crypt. Make sure to consult your lawyer before doing anything which will get you thrown in jail; if you are lucky, your lawyer might know a lawyer who has at least heard of the ITAR. 9.3. What is TEMPEST? TEMPEST is a standard for electromagnetic shielding for computer equipment. It was created in response to the discovery that information can be read from computer radiation (e.g., from a CRT) at quite a distance and with little effort. Needless to say, encryption doesn't do much good if the cleartext is available this way. 9.4. What are the Beale Ciphers, and are they a hoax? (Thanks to Jim Gillogly for this information and John King for corrections.) The story in a pamphlet by J. B. Ward (1885) goes: Thomas Jefferson Beale and a party of adventurers accumulated a huge mass of treasure and buried it in Bedford County, Virginia, leaving three ciphers with an innkeeper; the ciphers describe the location, contents, and intended beneficiaries of the treasure. Ward gives a decryption of the second cipher (contents) called B2; it was encrypted as a book cipher using the initial letters of the Declaration of Independence (DOI) as key. B1 and B3 are unsolved; many documents have been tried as the key to B1. Aficionados can join a group that attempts to solve B1 by various means with an eye toward splitting the treasure: The Beale Cypher Association P.O. Box 975 Beaver Falls, PA 15010 You can get the ciphers from the rec.puzzles FAQL by including the line: send index in a message to netlib@peregrine.com and following the directions. (There are apparently several different versions of the cipher floating around. The correct version is based on the 1885 pamphlet, says John King <kingj@hpcc01.corp.hp.com>.) Some believe the story is a hoax. Kruh [KRU88] gives a long list of problems with the story. Gillogly [GIL80] decrypted B1 with the DOI and found some unexpected strings, including ABFDEFGHIIJKLMMNOHPP. Hammer (president of the Beale Cypher Association) agrees that this string couldn't appear by chance, but feels there must be an explanation; Gwyn (sci.crypt expert) is unimpressed with this string. 9.5. What is the American Cryptogram Association, and how do I get in touch? The ACA is an organization devoted to cryptography, with an emphasis on cryptanalysis of systems that can be attacked either with pencil-and-paper or computers. Its organ ``The Cryptogram'' includes articles and challenge ciphers. Among the more than 50 cipher types in English and other languages are simple substitution, Playfair, Vigenere, bifid, Bazeries, grille, homophonic, and cryptarithm. Dues are $20 per year (6 issues) for new members, $15 thereafter; more outside North America; less for students under 18 and seniors. Send checks to ACA Treasurer, P.O. Box 198, Vernon Hills, IL 60061-0198. 9.6. Is RSA patented? Yes. The patent number is 4,405,829, filed 12/14/77, granted 9/20/83. For further discussion of this patent, whether it should have been granted, algorithm patents in general, and related legal and moral issues, see comp.patents and misc.legal.computing. For information about the League for Programming Freedom see [FTPPF]. Note that one of the original purposes of comp.patents was to collect questions such as ``should RSA be patented?'', which often flooded sci.crypt and other technical newsgroups, into a more appropriate forum. 9.7. What about the Voynich manuscript? The Voynich manuscript is an elaborately lettered and illustrated document, in a script never deciphered. It has been handed down for centuries by a line of art collectors and has uncertain origination. Much speculation and attention has been focused on its potential meaning. nelson@reed.edu (Nelson Minar) says there is a mailing list on the subject. The address to write to subscribe to the VMS mailing list is: <voynich-request@rand.org> the ftp archive is: rand.org:/pub/voynich There's all sorts of information about the manuscript itself, of course. A good bibliography can be found on the ftp site. [KAH67] gives a good introduction.