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February 22, 2012
John Nash's 1955 Letter to the NSA
Posted on February 22, 2012 at 6:53 AM
• 10 Comments
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This is serendipitous I woke this morning in the middle of the night actually and found your book on my self and started to reread "Secrets & Lies" then I find you on Twitter. Just shows that there are no coincidences :-) now I'm going back to bed to find another new day.
Good luck on your endeavors.
One wonders if he wouldn't have received a rejection letter if he had better penmanship.
So, he basically invents the concepts that modern crypto are based on, his work is classified/rejected/shelved, and we finally get the good crypto TWO DECADES later. The RSA bunch and others get credit for the inventions, Nash gets an honorable mention on some security blogs. All in all, it's interesting but kinda sad in a way. Like Nash's life in general.
Somebody should do a security evaluation of it. It would be fascinating if it matches or even beats any modern algorithm.
Unfortunately it is not uncommon for this sort of thing to happen. People ahead of their time often don't get the credit they deserve. For example Edison is much more widely known that Tesla.
A recent example of people not getting properly recognized is the week Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie died. Jobs was given many times more media attention than Ritchie.
One observation in the Nash letter. He states "Essentially, as soon as n bits of enciphered message have been transmitted, the key is about determined."
This is a rough statement regarding what appears to be Shannon's Unicity Distance. But, it is wrong as it does not consider the entropy of the source. Interesting.
Note also that Nash refers to discussing his ideas with Huffman (probably D. A. Huffman) and A. Gleason---both of whom he indicates he believed were consultants to NSA. IIRC, neither of them were lightweights. Of course, neither is Nash.
Note that Patterson, in his correspondance with Thomas Jefferson back in the early 1800s expressed the same principles.
There was a front page article is the WSJ a few years back on the story of the person who finally broke Patterson's cipher.
"Unfortunately it is not uncommon for this sort of thing to happen. People ahead of their time often don't get the credit they deserve. For example Edison is much more widely known that Tesla."
Yes, and narcissist Steve Jobs gets crowned as iGod, whereas Dennis Ritchie, the father of the C programming language and Unix operating system, who died a week later does not get a mention in the press.
While his basic analysis of the ultimate theoretic strength of cryptographic systems seems to be sound, I'm not at all convinced that the specific cryptosystem is at all sound.
It seems to be a pseudorandom number based on linear binary operations, and these easily succumb to matrix operations with a known plaintext
At least that seemed to be what he was saying when I skimmed through it. Presumably if it was very strong, it would have been unlikely to be declassified.
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