Spooks crack Frank Sidebottom's code

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/04/16/spooks-crack-frank-sidebottom.html


He’s behind you.


This is phrased as if the codebreakers were angry it was a difficult problem. But you know this is what they do for fun.


‘There you go, now we’ve all had our fun, there’s the explanation.’"

Roger That!


I like the concept of codes, the interesting ways they are devised, but I can’t say I ever liked trying to decipher them.


Was there anything hidden in his other code?


It was also the first appearance of Frank Sidebottom.


Well, they can’t all be peculiar and immortalized,eh?


Oh my days - The nostalgia buzz from that one link was amazing.

He understood crypto. You can take ages to decrypt a message, but it is almost impossible to show there is no hidden message. Stick in junk. If you can decrypt the message you can skitp the junk. If you are fond of personal freedoms, have a megabyte or so of random data somewhere on your computer, called something like TopSecret.cod. You can say with all honesty that it is random data, and there is no key, and no-one can prove otherwise.

You might get the odd waterboarding, but that’s part of the fun, eh? (NOT!)

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I don’t know what an American would think of Frank but he cracks me up, actually.

Thank you!

It’s possible that the story was munged a bit during the recording process; or deliberately told to provide a better multi-part narrative, rather than “we gave the cyphertext to some professionals, they deciphered it”; but I am very surprised that the spurious segments would have defied analysis without the convenient discovery of them from another source.

It’s not a trivial problem(and someone who is aware of the techniques may be able to construct spurious cyphertext with the right properties); but analyzing the statistical properties of cyphertext in comparison to the known properties of various sorts of plaintext(whether it be letter frequency in natural languages or headers of common file types) is very much a known thing(probably the oldest known thing; if memory serves frequency analysis of alphabetic substitution cyphers pretty much founded the field).

It’s unlikely that spurious text produced by having children draw some similar looking patterns would have the same structure as patterns that encode English text; and I’d imagine that the GCHQ people neglected to consider that only some of the cyphertext was meaningful when analysis of the whole thing came up empty and different sections had different statistical properties.

Am I underestimating the difficulty? Body of cyphertext too small to permit this sort of analysis? Potentially in the reporting of the story?

Symbols are tough nuts to crack: no matter how you beat them down and impose your hegemonic equivalence relations on them; they are all like “you can take my life; but you can never take my numerical identity!”

Oh no he isn’t!

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