[Cryptography] highlights of crypto history

Jon Callas jon at callas.org
Sun Nov 13 23:25:13 EST 2016

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These are all military and diplomatic, which is only a facet of the whole thing, as well as all being 20th century.

>  Zimmermann Telegram : 11 January 1917 -- encrypted, but not quite well enough.
>   From a US/UK point of view, this one is hard to beat.

It's certainly hard to beat on other scales, as well, because it was subterfuge getting it to the US, and Zimmermann didn't deny it at all.

> Security successes:
>  Battle of the Bulge : 16 December 1944 -- Germans achieved essentially complete
>   tactical surprise, effective comsec (not so much crypto, just low-tech comsec),
>   effective deception.
>  Operation Overlord : 6 June 1944 -- Allies achieved essentially complete tactical
>   surprise, highly effective deception.
> Other contenders:
>  Washington Naval Treaty : signed 6 February 1922
>    US codebreakers ate the Japanese diplomats' lunch.
>    Nontrivial consequences for WWII.
>    Consequences would have been greater if Yardley hadn't spilled the beans.

Or not. If Yardley hadn't spilled the beans, then the USG might not have hired in the Friedmans, Rowley and others.

>  So many aspects of WWII that one hardly knows where to begin:
>    Battle of the Atlantic
>    Battle of the Coral Sea
>    Battle of Midway
>    Assassination of Yamamoto
>    US anti-shipping operations in the eastern Pacific, unheralded but very consequential,
>      dependent on breakage of Japanese Maru code and non-breakage of US Navy codes.

I'd put Pearl Harbor in there as well, because while the US knew that Japan was up to something, having broken the codes, they had no idea exactly what. When the Japanese navy set sail, they were completely radio silent, but a small army (navy?) of operators sent cover traffic to obscure that they were sailing for who knows where. The US was decrypting all the traffic and could only bite their nails. They knew something was up, but not what.


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