Israeli Deciphers ‘Unsolvable’ WWI Encryption Code
During WWI and WWII, one encryption method, called “the double transportation cipher”, was widely used by all sides to pass along messages without the enemy being able to to decipher their meaning. And it seems the encryption method really was undecipherable, as for the last 100 years, it had never been cracked. That is, until Israeli George Lasry took a crack at it.
“East-German and Soviet intelligence used it in the cold war,” Lasry told Israeli news source Haaretz. “It was used for communication between spies in places such as West-Germany when contacting their headquarters.”
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Lasry came across the code when a German researcher called Klaus Schmeh published a riddle using it. The riddle, suggested by the former head of West-Germany’s encryption and cracking unit Otto Leiberich, was designed to prove that the code could not be cracked.
“On November 25 2013, I received an email from someone in Israel called George Lasry who claimed he cracked the code, and he also sent me the solution,” Schmeh wrote in the German magazine Focus. “I was surprised to see that the solution was correct and thus essentially a solution was found to a problem that was considered unsolvable for 100 years. This is, in my opinion, one of the most significant breakthroughs in code-cracking in recent years.”
The double transportation cipher uses two character keys, each one 20-25 characters long. To crack the entire code, one would have to check approx. 10 to the 50th power options. That is an equation that cannot be run by any known computer. “Whoever tries to explore [the cipher] needs to try and break the problem into several elements and not try and solve the whole thing at once,” Lasry told Haaretz. “If you can break the problem apart, then each solution is simpler than all of it mixed together.”
Until recently, Lasry served as VP Development in several high-tech firms, but he never lost his love of cryptography, which developed during his military service in the elite intelligence unit 8200. Lasry’s solution, which will be published in Cryptologia magazine, will now enable similar problems to be solved within minutes.
Photo: Visualization Of Mathematics by Bigstock