Modern encryption systems rely on oxymoronic “random generators.” This could be the crack in a supposedly unbreakable system.
As discussed in a recent Monday Note titled “Let’s Outlaw Math,” electronic messages that are encoded with modern encryption techniques are truly indecipherable by interlopers—it doesn’t matter whether they’re criminals or governments. The latter have attempted to legislate backdoors that only they can use (to protect us, of course), but there’s a danger: These “golden keys” could fall into the wrong hands. In any case, a backdoor only works where it’s been installed; unbreakable public domain encryption is available to everyone, terrorists and traffickers included.
So… case closed, good guys and bad guys alike can “safely” use unbreakable codes?
Not so fast.
A fundamental feature of a properly encoded cryptogram is that it looks random: a sequence of (say) letters without any detectable pattern or meaning.
Consider the schoolyard encryption method known as the Caesar cipher where each letter in the original message is shifted: A becomes C, B becomes D, C is E, and so on. Cleopatra thus becomes Engqrcvtc. The “shift key” is easily discovered by looking for frequently occurring patterns in the encrypted message and matching them to common words in the language of the original text.
If you’re a cryptographer, patterns are your enemy. But if you’re a cryptanalyst—someone who’s trying to break the code—they’re your friend.
We all know the story of the German Enigma machine whose sophisticated code might have remained unbroken were it not for humans who let down their guard and allowed…