Alan Mathison Turing (; 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite these accomplishments, he was not fully recognised in his home country during his lifetime, due to his homosexuality, and because much of his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act.
During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre that produced Ultra intelligence. For a time he led Hut 8, the section that was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Here, he devised a number of techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers, including improvements to the pre-war Polish bombe method, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine.
Turing played a crucial role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic, and in so doing helped win the war. Due to the problems of counterfactual history, it is hard to estimate the precise effect Ultra intelligence had on the war, but at the upper end it has been estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.
After the war Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the Automatic Computing Engine. The Automatic Computing Engine was one of the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman's Computing Machine Laboratory, at the Victoria University of Manchester, where he helped develop the Manchester computers and became interested in mathematical biology. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, first observed in the 1960s.
Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts; the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 had mandated that "gross indecency" was a criminal offence in the UK. He accepted chemical castration treatment, with DES, as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as a suicide, but it has been noted that the known evidence is also consistent with accidental poisoning.
In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way he was treated". Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013. The Alan Turing law is now an informal term for a 2017 law in the United Kingdom that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.
- "Alan Turing's 100th Birthday - Mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, scientist" | 2012-06-22 | 146 Upvotes 19 Comments
- "Happy Birthday, Alan Turing" | 2011-06-23 | 78 Upvotes 6 Comments
Atbash (Hebrew: אתבש; also transliterated Atbaš) is a monoalphabetic substitution cipher originally used to encrypt the Hebrew alphabet. It can be modified for use with any known writing system with a standard collating order.
- "Atbash – Ancient Hebrew Cryptography" | 2016-02-01 | 43 Upvotes 7 Comments
BB84 is a quantum key distribution scheme developed by Charles Bennett and Gilles Brassard in 1984. It is the first quantum cryptography protocol. The protocol is provably secure, relying on the quantum property that information gain is only possible at the expense of disturbing the signal if the two states one is trying to distinguish are not orthogonal (see no-cloning theorem) and an authenticated public classical channel. It is usually explained as a method of securely communicating a private key from one party to another for use in one-time pad encryption.
- "BB84 – A quantum key distribution scheme" | 2015-04-18 | 12 Upvotes 6 Comments
The Beale ciphers (or Beale Papers) are a set of three ciphertexts, one of which allegedly states the location of a buried treasure of gold, silver and jewels estimated to be worth over US$43 million as of January 2018. Comprising three ciphertexts, the first (unsolved) text describes the location, the second (solved) ciphertext the content of the treasure, and the third (unsolved) lists the names of the treasure's owners and their next of kin.
The story of the three ciphertexts originates from an 1885 pamphlet detailing treasure being buried by a man named Thomas J. Beale in a secret location in Bedford County, Virginia, in the 1820s. Beale entrusted a box containing the encrypted messages to a local innkeeper named Robert Morriss and then disappeared, never to be seen again. According to the story, the innkeeper opened the box 23 years later, and then decades after that gave the three encrypted ciphertexts to a friend before he died. The friend then spent the next twenty years of his life trying to decode the messages, and was able to solve only one of them which gave details of the treasure buried and the general location of the treasure. The unnamed friend then published all three ciphertexts in a pamphlet which was advertised for sale in the 1880s.
Since the publication of the pamphlet, a number of attempts have been made to decode the two remaining ciphertexts and to locate the treasure, but all efforts have resulted in failure.
There are many arguments that the entire story is a hoax, including the 1980 article "A Dissenting Opinion" by cryptographer Jim Gillogly, and a 1982 scholarly analysis of the Beale Papers and their related story by Joe Nickell, using historical records that cast doubt on the existence of Thomas J. Beale. Nickell also presents linguistic evidence demonstrating that the documents could not have been written at the time alleged (words such as "stampeding", for instance, are of later vintage). His analysis of the writing style showed that Beale was almost certainly James B. Ward, whose 1885 pamphlet brought the Beale Papers to light. Nickell argues that the tale is thus a work of fiction; specifically, a "secret vault" allegory of the Freemasons; James B. Ward was a Mason himself.
- "The Beale ciphers" | 2014-09-28 | 33 Upvotes 9 Comments
Bitcoin (₿) is a cryptocurrency. It is a decentralized digital currency without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries.
Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Bitcoin was invented in 2008 by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto and started in 2009 when its source code was released as open-source software. Bitcoins are created as a reward for a process known as mining. They can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. Research produced by University of Cambridge estimates that in 2017, there were 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using bitcoin.
Bitcoin has been criticized for its use in illegal transactions, its high electricity consumption, price volatility, and thefts from exchanges. Some economists, including several Nobel laureates, have characterized it as a speculative bubble. Bitcoin has also been used as an investment, although several regulatory agencies have issued investor alerts about bitcoin.
Bitmessage is a decentralized, encrypted, peer-to-peer, trustless communications protocol that can be used by one person to send encrypted messages to another person, or to multiple subscribers.
In June 2013, the software experienced a surge of new adoptions after news reports of email surveillance by the US National Security Agency.
Bitmessage was conceived by software developer Jonathan Warren, who based its design on the decentralized digital currency, bitcoin. The software was released in November 2012 under the MIT license.
Bitmessage gained a reputation for being out of reach of warrantless wiretapping conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA), due to the decentralized nature of the protocol, and its encryption being difficult to crack. As a result, downloads of the Bitmessage program increased fivefold during June 2013, after news broke of classified email surveillance activities conducted by the NSA.
Bitmessage has also been mentioned as an experimental alternative to email by Popular Science and CNET.
Some ransomware programs instruct affected users to use Bitmessage to communicate with the attackers.
- "Bitmessage: a decentralized, encrypted, trustless communications protocol" | 2016-10-15 | 70 Upvotes 26 Comments
In cryptography a blind signature, as introduced by David Chaum, is a form of digital signature in which the content of a message is disguised (blinded) before it is signed. The resulting blind signature can be publicly verified against the original, unblinded message in the manner of a regular digital signature. Blind signatures are typically employed in privacy-related protocols where the signer and message author are different parties. Examples include cryptographic election systems and digital cash schemes.
An often-used analogy to the cryptographic blind signature is the physical act of a voter enclosing a completed anonymous ballot in a special carbon paper lined envelope that has the voter's credentials pre-printed on the outside. An official verifies the credentials and signs the envelope, thereby transferring their signature to the ballot inside via the carbon paper. Once signed, the package is given back to the voter, who transfers the now signed ballot to a new unmarked normal envelope. Thus, the signer does not view the message content, but a third party can later verify the signature and know that the signature is valid within the limitations of the underlying signature scheme.
Blind signatures can also be used to provide unlinkability, which prevents the signer from linking the blinded message it signs to a later un-blinded version that it may be called upon to verify. In this case, the signer's response is first "un-blinded" prior to verification in such a way that the signature remains valid for the un-blinded message. This can be useful in schemes where anonymity is required.
Blind signature schemes can be implemented using a number of common public key signing schemes, for instance RSA and DSA. To perform such a signature, the message is first "blinded", typically by combining it in some way with a random "blinding factor". The blinded message is passed to a signer, who then signs it using a standard signing algorithm. The resulting message, along with the blinding factor, can be later verified against the signer's public key. In some blind signature schemes, such as RSA, it is even possible to remove the blinding factor from the signature before it is verified. In these schemes, the final output (message/signature) of the blind signature scheme is identical to that of the normal signing protocol.
- "Blind Signature" | 2018-02-09 | 57 Upvotes 9 Comments
CipherSaber is a simple symmetric encryption protocol based on the RC4 stream cipher. Its goals are both technical and political: it gives reasonably strong protection of message confidentiality, yet it's designed to be simple enough that even novice programmers can memorize the algorithm and implement it from scratch. According to the designer, a CipherSaber version in the QBASIC programming language takes just sixteen lines of code. Its political aspect is that because it's so simple, it can be reimplemented anywhere at any time, and so it provides a way for users to communicate privately even if government or other controls make distribution of normal cryptographic software completely impossible.
- "CipherSaber - A 'political' encryption cipher" | 2012-12-11 | 42 Upvotes 14 Comments
Claude Elwood Shannon (April 30, 1916 – February 24, 2001) was an American mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer known as "the father of information theory". Shannon is noted for having founded information theory with a landmark paper, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication", that he published in 1948.
He is also well known for founding digital circuit design theory in 1937, when—as a 21-year-old master's degree student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—he wrote his thesis demonstrating that electrical applications of Boolean algebra could construct any logical numerical relationship. Shannon contributed to the field of cryptanalysis for national defense during World War II, including his fundamental work on codebreaking and secure telecommunications.
- "Claude Shannon" | 2009-12-03 | 25 Upvotes 12 Comments
The Clipper chip was a chipset that was developed and promoted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) as an encryption device that secured “voice and data messages" with a built-in backdoor. It was intended to be adopted by telecommunications companies for voice transmission. It can encipher and decipher messages. It was part of a Clinton Administration program to “allow Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials the ability to decode intercepted voice and data transmissions." “Each clipper chip ha[d] a unique serial number and a secret ‘unit key,’ programmed into the chip when manufactured." This way, each device was meant to be different from the next.
It was announced in 1993 and by 1996 was entirely defunct.
- "The Clipper Chip" | 2016-03-16 | 244 Upvotes 39 Comments