Monday, April 11, 2011

Cxjlrp Zfmebop -Translation: "Famous Ciphers"

This story on unsolved ciphers reminds me how much I love the science of ciphers and cryptography. A great book on codes and ciphers is Simon Singh's The Code Book.

View the slideshow of unsolved ciphers.

Unsolved codes and ciphers from across the ages. - By Elizabeth Weingarten - Slate Magazine:
When Ricky McCormick's body was discovered in a Missouri cornfield in 1999, police officers discovered something unusual in his pockets: Two curious notes that appeared to be written in code. If McCormick had been murdered, as investigators suspected, they figured these cryptic clues might lead them to the culprit. Soon the FBI was involved.
Twelve years later, the FBI is still so confounded by the codes that they've posted them online with the hope that someone out there can make sense of them.
It may seem strange that McCormick, a high-school dropout who spent most of his time on the street, could baffle the FBI's top cryptologists. But according to Jonathan Katz, an associate computer-science professor at the University of Maryland who teaches cryptography, amateur ciphers can be the most difficult to unlock.
When experts attempt to break a wartime code, they know the general context of the message. They know who's communicating with whom and what they're communicating about. But when it comes to rogue codes, cryptologists don't even know what language the cipher was written in.
Editor's note: The headline on this article, "Cxjlrp Zfmebop," is a simple Caesar cipher in which every letter of the original headline is shifted three letters back in the alphabet. To decode it, you just go in reverse: C+3 is F, X+3 is A, and so forth.

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