Cryptanalysis - History of Cryptanalysis

History of Cryptanalysis

Cryptanalysis has coevolved together with cryptography, and the contest can be traced through the history of cryptography—new ciphers being designed to replace old broken designs, and new cryptanalytic techniques invented to crack the improved schemes. In practice, they are viewed as two sides of the same coin: in order to create secure cryptography, you have to design against possible cryptanalysis.

Successful cryptanalysis has undoubtedly influenced history; the ability to read the presumed-secret thoughts and plans of others can be a decisive advantage. For example, in England in 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots was tried and executed for treason for her involvement in three plots to assassinate Elizabeth I of England which were known about because her coded correspondence with fellow conspirators had been deciphered by Thomas Phelippes.

In World War I, the breaking of the Zimmermann Telegram was instrumental in bringing the United States into the war. In World War II, the Allies benefitted enormously from their joint success cryptanalysis of the German ciphers — including the Enigma machine and the Lorenz cipher — and Japanese ciphers, particularly 'Purple' and JN-25. 'Ultra' intelligence has been credited with everything between shortening the end of the European war by up to two years, to determining the eventual result. The war in the Pacific was similarly helped by 'Magic' intelligence.

Governments have long recognized the potential benefits of cryptanalysis for intelligence, both military and diplomatic, and established dedicated organizations devoted to breaking the codes and ciphers of other nations, for example, GCHQ and the NSA, organizations which are still very active today. In 2004, it was reported that the United States had broken Iranian ciphers. (It is unknown, however, whether this was pure cryptanalysis, or whether other factors were involved:).

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