Ross Anderson on the History of the Crypto Wars in the UK

Ross Anderson gave a talk on the history of the Crypto Wars in the UK. I am intimately familiar with the US story, but didn't know as much about Britain's version.

Hour-long video. Summary.

Posted on August 29, 2017 at 6:38 AM • 6 Comments

Comments

DroneAugust 29, 2017 6:55 AM

It is so easy to set the the audio level properly - except when you are visiting the Cambridge University Ethics in Mathematics Society. Sigh...

Large Mouth BassAugust 29, 2017 11:16 AM

Whatever happened to Alan Turing?

He was ordered by some court or another to undergo chemical castration as punishment for alleged homosexuality, which he did, and subsequently committed suicide, according to some official coroner's verdict.

There was some allegation against him of attempted rape/sodomy, but it doesn't seem like a specific accusation was ever brought in court. The accusation against him seems to have been left rather vague, falling well short of standards of proof "beyond a reasonable doubt," and I definitely do not trust everything I read about this.

It is possible, even to the contrary, that he refused some sexual advance from another man, and was punished for that. The reason I am even thinking this is that the Brits and the American frat boys just aren't coming clean with the human side of this story.

The crypto wars all started with Alan Turing: he was the one who cracked the German enigma ciphers with the "Bombe" and the help of Claude Shannon's information theory.

faAugust 29, 2017 4:41 PM

@Large Mouth Bass

Please get your facts correct.

The 'crypto wars' didn't start with Turing, nor did the history of cryptography in general.
Just read David Kahn's 'The Codebreakers - The Story of Secret Writing' to get an idea.

Turing didn't 'crack the Enigma'. Lots of other people contributed to this, and it all
started in Poland even before the war.

Turing and Shannon did meet, but this was in 1943, well after the Brits started reading
Enigma traffic. And Shannon's main publication on information theory dates from 1948.

Clive RobinsonAugust 29, 2017 6:53 PM

@ sa,

Turing didn't 'crack the Enigma'. Lots of other people contributed to this, and it all started in Poland even before the war.

Actually it did not start in Poland.

What the Germans did to the Enigma was bassed on cryptographic analysis of the actual commercial device, that had also seen action in war.

It was not just the addition of the plug board, but also changing the mechanics such that the odometer like stepping action was at the other end of the wheels.

It was this change of end that made the "rodding" attack to difficult to accomplish.

I'm in no way trying to detract from what the Poles did to get arround both changes it was truly remarkable work.

However the Polish Bombe was an altogether different animal to the Turing Bomb, and importantly even his work was eclipsed by that of Gordon Welchman with his diagonal board. Interestingly Gordon came up with his own idea of the Bomb without knowing that about either the Bombe or Bomb in just a couple of weeks.

de La BoetieAugust 30, 2017 4:19 AM

Sadly, Turning's work is being used to cast a beneficent light on the work and illegal behaviours of GCHQ today.

As Ross Anderson observes in an aside at the end, they are still run by non-scientists, as UK politics is by Machiavellian PPE graduates & lawyers. I also agree that the lack of an apology, and the attempt to squash dissent with the IP Act, is by no means the end of the story.

And the UK will see the harm of policies created by those PPE graduates to the toxic muse of the Mail.

WinterAugust 30, 2017 9:05 AM

@Large Mouth Bass
"The accusation against him seems to have been left rather vague, falling well short of standards of proof "beyond a reasonable doubt," and I definitely do not trust everything I read about this."

Please get your facts correct.

http://www.turing.org.uk/sources/sentence.html

Turing did have "intercourse" with a man. That in itself was a punishable offense as homosexual intercourse was a crime. He was found guilty because there was actual proof of the acts "beyond a reasonable doubt".

In simple terms. Turing was gay and he consumed it. That in itself was enough to get him convicted. I have not seen any record that anyone ever doubted that Turing was gay and had intercourse with men.

Something like that also happened to Oscar Wilde half a century before.

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