The Chaocipher Clearing House

Progress Report #27

4 August 2020

Moshe Rubin (mosher@mountainvistasoft.com)

This Progress Report is a compilation of Chaocipher-related information since Progress Report #26 (February 2019).

Here's a brief listing of items:



Chaocipher mentioned in Craig P. Bauer's book "Unsolved!"

In Craig P. Bauer's excellent  book "Unsolved! The History and Mystery of the World's Greatest Ciphers from Ancient Egypt to Online Secret Societies", we find, on pages 369-370, an intriguing reference to Chaocipher.

Chapter 8, entitled "A Challenge Cipher", tells the story of Major General Joseph O. Mauborgne (1881-1971).  Mauborgne had an illustrious army career, rising prominently in the Army Signal Corps between the years 1914-1941.  He served as the army's twelfth chief signal officer from October 1937 until he reached the mandatory retirement age in 1941.

In 1914, Mauborgne made his reputation when, as a young first lieutenant, he achieved the first recorded solution of the Playfair cipher, then used by the British as their field cipher.  In World War I he independantly invented the one-time pad.

Craig P. Bauer's "Unsolved!" In 1915, between these two events, Mauborgne, now a 1st Lieutenant, submitted a challenge cipher message to the director of the Army Signal School.  The message was in a new system invented by Mauborgne, and he felt the system was far superior to the Playfair or the M-94 cipher wheel system.  He suggested that members of the Signal Corps should be given the chance to solve it.    Lou Kruh, a well-known collector of cryptological items and a prolific cryptographic author, published Mauborgne's challenge cipher in the American Cryptogram Association's "The Cryptogram" and in Cryptologia, but no solution was ever submitted by a solver.

When investigating the 1915 challenge cipher presented by Kruh, Bauer wanted to see Mauborgne's original letter.  Unfortunately, the New York Public Library could no longer find the original.  In his chapter 8, Bauer brings several examples of inaccuracies in Kruh's articles, and opines that Kruh may have introduced errors into the transcription of Mauborgne's cipher.  One such inaccuracy relates to Lou Kruh's and Cipher Deavours's 1990 article in Cryptologia.

You can read the relevant portions of Chapter 8 describing Kruh's writing about Chaocipher.  Bauer bases his doubts about Kruh's accuracy on Jeff Calof's excellent paper in Cryptologia entitled "Chaocipher Exhibit 5: History, Analysis, and Solution of Cryptologia's 1990 Challenge".



Wolfram Function Repository has a Chaocipher function

The Wolfram Language is, according to its Wikipedia page:

Wolfram Language"... is a general multi-paradigm computational language developed by Wolfram Research. It emphasizes symbolic computation, functional programming, and rule-based programming and can employ arbitrary structures and data. It is the programming language of the mathematical symbolic computation program Mathematica."

The Wolfram Language syntax is overall similar to the M-expression of 1960s LISP, with support for infix operators and "function-notation" function calls.

The Wolfram Function Repository is a public resource that hosts an expanding collection of contributed standalone functions suitable for immediate use in any Wolfram Language computation.  Two of the standalone functions in the repository are the "ChaoCipher" and "ChaoDecipher" high-level functions for encipering and deciphering Chaocipher messages, respectively.



Chaocipher mentioned in Mike Barlow's "Computer Supplement #5"

The American Cryptogram Association (known as the ACA), one of the oldest non-profit organizations for hobbyist and puzzler cryptanalysts, published  a computer-related publication named "The Computer Supplement".  First written and edited by the ACA member Mike Barlow, the supplement ran from 1986 to 1997 and totalled 21 issues, each filled with articles about computer programming code (usually BASIC) for use in solving ciphers presented in ACA issues.

Computer Supplement #5, published in January/February 1988, presented an article entitled "Have you tried the Chaocipher?"



Ken Hannigan's article "James Joyce, John Francis Byrne and their Contemporaries: the Wicklow Connections"

In February 2012 I received an email from Ken Hannigan, a resident of Dunganstown, West Wicklow, in Ireland.  Ken had read my 2011 article on John Francis Byrne in Cryptologia, and this reawoke his long interest in Byrne.  As Ken wrote:

Dunganstown, West Wicklow, IrelandI have been interested in J.F.Byrne for many years, not because of any interest in ciphers, but originally as part of research I was undertaking while a student in the 1970s on the life of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a contemporary of Byrne’s, and more recently in connection with the history of my local parish of Dunganstown, Co Wicklow. As you will be aware, J. F. Byrne wrote extensively in his memoir, Silent Years, about the time he spent with the Fogarty family in Carrigmore, Co. Wicklow.  In 1993 and 1994 as part of a local history project in the parish, I co-operated with Fr. Jim Murphy in taping a series of interviews with Michael Fogarty of Carrigmore, the grandson of the man in whose house J.F. Byrne spent the summers of his early life.  I later published an article about life in this area in the 1890s, based in part on Michael Fogarty’s inherited memories and J.F. Byrne’s memoir.  I am hoping now to write a little more for a local history society about  Michael Fogarty, who died in 2005, about his memories or previous generations, and what he had been told about visitors to Carrigmore, including J. F. Byrne, Francis Sheehy Skeffington and James Joyce (although I am almost certain that Michael Fogarty was mistaken and that Joyce was never a visitor to Carrigmore).

This first email led to numerous fascinating and eye-opening revelations over the years, as we both shared the information we had about John F. Byrne.  I must admit that carrying on such interesting correspondences, with someone as erudite and enthusiastic as Ken, has been a high point for me in my historical research into John F. Byrne's life.

Ken's paper was first published locally in the Wicklow Journal.  However, as is the way of excellent research articles, it was picked up on by the prestigious Dublin James Joyce Journal, and the editors invited him to submit a version of it to their journal.  With Ken's permission, you can read his paper "James Joyce, John Francis Byrne and their Contemporaries: the Wicklow Connections."  It is a scholarly, but a most readable, personal, and intimate account of John Francis Byrne's life in Ireland, and it contains many references to Chaocipher.



Rosetta Code: Chaocipher implemented in many programming languages

Rosetta Code website The Rosetta Code website defines itself as a "programming chrestomathy site".  The idea is to present solutions to the same programming task in as many different programming languages as possible.  This helps demonstrate how languages are similar and different, and aids a person with a grounding in one approach to a problem in learning another. Rosetta Code currently (July 2020) has 1,060 tasks, 194 draft tasks, and is aware of 791 languages.

One of its pages is dedicated to the Chaocipher algorithm, and solutions for coding the algorithm can be found in 26 different programming languages, from Arc, C, and C# to Tailspin, Visual Basic .NET, and zkl.



Roaming Zenith: An alternate way of displaying permuted Chaocipher alphabets

In the original June 2010 document that revealed the Chaocipher system, entitled "Chaocipher Revealed: The Algorithm", the successive permuted left and right alphabets of the sample enciphering were presented in table form:

    Left Alphabet (ct)         Right Alphabet (pt)       CT <- PT

HXUCZVAMDSLKPEFJRIGTWOBNYQ PTLNBQDEOYSFAVZKGJRIHWXUMC    O     W
ONYQHXUCZVAMDBSLKPEFJRIGTW XUCPTLNBQDEOYMSFAVZKGJRIHW    A     E
ADBSLKPEFJRIGMTWONYQHXUCZV OYSFAVZKGJRIHMWXUCPTLNBQDE    H     L
HUCZVADBSLKPEXFJRIGMTWONYQ NBDEOYSFAVZKGQJRIHMWXUCPTL    Q     L
QUCZVADBSLKPEHXFJRIGMTWONY NBEOYSFAVZKGQDJRIHMWXUCPTL    H     D
HFJRIGMTWONYQXUCZVADBSLKPE JRHMWXUCPTLNBIEOYSFAVZKGQD    C     O
CVADBSLKPEHFJZRIGMTWONYQXU YSAVZKGQDJRHMFWXUCPTLNBIEO    N     N
NQXUCVADBSLKPYEHFJZRIGMTWO BIOYSAVZKGQDJERHMFWXUCPTLN    Y     E
YHFJZRIGMTWONEQXUCVADBSLKP RHFWXUCPTLNBIMOYSAVZKGQDJE    N     I
NQXUCVADBSLKPEYHFJZRIGMTWO MOSAVZKGQDJERYHFWXUCPTLNBI    X     S
XCVADBSLKPEYHUFJZRIGMTWONQ AVKGQDJERYHFWZXUCPTLNBIMOS    T     B
TONQXCVADBSLKWPEYHUFJZRIGM IMSAVKGQDJERYOHFWZXUCPTLNB    S     E
SKWPEYHUFJZRILGMTONQXCVADB RYHFWZXUCPTLNOBIMSAVKGQDJE    Z     T
ZILGMTONQXCVARDBSKWPEYHUFJ LNBIMSAVKGQDJOERYHFWZXUCPT    J     T
JILGMTONQXCVAZRDBSKWPEYHUF LNIMSAVKGQDJOBERYHFWZXUCPT    R     E
RBSKWPEYHUFJIDLGMTONQXCVAZ RYFWZXUCPTLNIHMSAVKGQDJOBE    R     R
RSKWPEYHUFJIDBLGMTONQXCVAZ YFZXUCPTLNIHMWSAVKGQDJOBER    H     T
HFJIDBLGMTONQUXCVAZRSKWPEY LNHMWSAVKGQDJIOBERYFZXUCPT    J     H
JDBLGMTONQUXCIVAZRSKWPEYHF MWAVKGQDJIOBESRYFZXUCPTLNH    B     A
BGMTONQUXCIVALZRSKWPEYHFJD VKQDJIOBESRYFGZXUCPTLNHMWA    Y     N
YFJDBGMTONQUXHCIVALZRSKWPE HMAVKQDJIOBESWRYFGZXUCPTLN    H     W
HIVALZRSKWPEYCFJDBGMTONQUX RYGZXUCPTLNHMFAVKQDJIOBESW    Q     E
QXHIVALZRSKWPUEYCFJDBGMTON SWYGZXUCPTLNHRMFAVKQDJIOBE    K     L
KPUEYCFJDBGMTWONQXHIVALZRS NHMFAVKQDJIOBRESWYGZXUCPTL    S     L
SPUEYCFJDBGMTKWONQXHIVALZR NHFAVKQDJIOBRMESWYGZXUCPTL    O     S
OQXHIVALZRSPUNEYCFJDBGMTKW WYZXUCPTLNHFAGVKQDJIOBRMES    U     A
UEYCFJDBGMTKWNOQXHIVALZRSP GVQDJIOBRMESWKYZXUCPTLNHFA    J     I
JBGMTKWNOQXHIDVALZRSPUEYCF OBMESWKYZXUCPRTLNHFAGVQDJI    Y     D

We will call this presentation the "stationary zenith" permuting method.  This method reflects John F. Byrne's two-wheel physical model, because at each enciphering step the alphabets rotate and shift up to the stationary zenith position.

It turns out there is another, cryptographically identical method for permuting the alphabets which we call the "roaming zenith" method.  The beauty of the "roaming zenith" permuting method is that it enables you to see, right before your eyes, the slow diffusion and entropy of the Chaocipher alphabets.

For a clear description of both methods, see the page entitled "Two ways to permute and display Chaocipher alphabets". 


 

Chaocipher hypothesis re "no hits < 7" is proven

Alphabet transition directed graphThe first "Chaocipher Progress Report", published on this web site back in February 2009, highlighted an intriguing characteristic in Exhibit #1 for in John F. Byrne's chapter 21 in "Silent Years".  The observation was that identical pt/ct pairs (known as "hits")  never occured in Classic Chaocipher at a distance less than nine (9).  This discovery fueled almost all of the Chaocipher research up until the cipher system was revealed.

Chaocipher Progress Report #26
, uploaded in Febraury 2019, announced the amazing fact that the lower bound of hits occurring was not nine (9), but rather seven (7).  In other words, the phenomenon could be described as:

"Hits never occur at a distance less than 7"

Additional research showed that, when exhaustively iterating through a subset of possible encipherings, that seven (7) was indeed the theoretical minimum.  In other words, hits could never occur at a distance of 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1.

In February 2019, a challenge was uploaded to the Tapatalk Crypto Forum.  The challenge was for readers to mathematically prove that seven (7) was indeed the theorectical minimum distance.  At the time, no one took up the challenge.

I recently decided to "bite the bullet", and succeeded in proving the assertion.  The proof can be read here.



Perl Weekly Challenge: Implement Chaocipher


The Perl & Raku Weekly Challenge website presents a weekly challenge to be solved in the Perl/Raku programming language.  Weekly challenge #25, posted on 8 September 2019, stated the following challenge:

Create script to implement Chaocipher. Please checkout wiki page for more information.

This challenge led to a flurry of activity trying to solve it.  Subsequent posts and links touched upon Chaocipher card simulations, Pokemon sequences, and more.

https://perlweeklychallenge.org/blog/review-challenge-025/

https://github.com/LaurentRosenfeld/Perl-6-Miscellaneous/blob/master/Challenges-in-Perl6/Chaocipher.md

https://perlweeklychallenge.org/blog/meet-the-champion-025/

https://raku-musings.com/pokemon-chiao.html





Off-the-wall link between Chaocipher and the Zodiac ciphers


Here's a zany monologue that tries to connect James Joyce, John F. Byrne, and Chaocipher to the Zodiac ciphers.  Here is a quote from the end of the section:

Byrne had included a whole raft of enciphered text in his book along with the plaintext equivalent – his aim was to allow someone the realistic chance to crack his cipher, after all. But, as a fail-safe, he encoded a final section to which there was no plaintext provided. This would allow a successful claimant to decipher the section and prove they had won the prize.

That section was 17 letters long, one short of Zodiac’s version. I struggle to believe that this is just Zynch. In my opinion there is a strong likelihood that Zodiac got inspiration for his final 18 letters in the z408 from Byrne’s Chaocipher. If that is true then those 18 letters almost certainly do have some meaning to decipher.

Beats me how anyone could consider such a connection, but it makes for amusing reading.




What does this reference here to Chaocipher mean?

At the time of writing, I have not been able to figure out what this link has to say about Chaocipher, but you'll find it referring to Chaocipher on page 3.  If you can figure it out, drop me a line.




Fascinating Chaocipher pt/ct challenge: find the key

Reddit.com has many communities within its borders, one of them being the /r/codes forum.  Here's how this community defines itself:

Hiding data, cracking codes, finding hidden messages. We welcome posts that aren't as suitable for /r/crypto, such as basic cipher-cracking challenges and discussions of simple data hiding.

On 10 July 2020, someone posted what he called "Challenges no. 2 (classical ciphers)".  In this post he offered cryptographic challenges of different types.  What interests us is cipher #4:

Reddit, 10 July 2020, challenge #4

Clicking on the black area in "About #4" we see:

Challenge #4 spoiler

What we have here is a delightful challenge: given a Chaocipher ciphertext and its corresponding plaintext, can you derive the starting alphabets?  This is precisely how the starting alphabets of Exhibit #1 were found.  For a technical explanation of how to do this, see George Lasry's on-line "A Methodology for the Cryptanalysis of Classical Ciphers with Search Metaheuristics", section 8.3 ("Related Work – Prior Cryptanalysis").

Here, for easy access, are the ciphertext and plaintext:

Ciphertext:

RWTJQ CBRAN SDDIJ IWPMT XTSSM BPQWW QLHTG ATWNL CZCHH WXSYS KEYZV ZITCA HZPZE QNBXT YQCBB VOBBI WTTWE GVCVE RLVUH XJXHT BEMPZ VONCX JPQRN BXTIK GBPQQ ZHPWX XELXA LFPXY KZYDS FAWNP WEOHO EPDVQ FFOGE RHZSP XRJLK BIKIU APPRN ILKSQ OTQPM GCAKK JJ

Plaintext:

OKAYS OTHIS ISJUS TATES TBASI CALLY BECAU SEIHA VENOI DEAWH ETHER THISI SSOLV ABLEG IVENT HEREL ATIVE LYLIT TLEAM OUNTO FCIPH ERTEX THERE AGAIN THERE STHER EISPA DDING SOITI SATLE ASTAL ITTLE LONGE RINTH EHOPE THATT HISHE LPSWI THDEC RYPTI ON

If anyone succeeds in determining the starting alphabets, please send me a description of the method used and the starting alphabets, so I can highlight your solution on this site.

Good luck on this real-world cryptanalytic challenge!

P.S. Use ROT-13 to decrypt the text "V sbyybjrq gur ehyrf".




Musings regarding Chaocipher research

A reader of this website would br forgiven if he or she doubted the long-term value of researching the Chaocipher cipher system.  After all, Chaocipher was never used as a real-life military or diplomatic cipher, and no historical documents were ever sent using the system.  So why invest time and energy in continued historical and cryptanalytic research into the system?

Besides the obvious answer of its being an intellectual challenge, I believe Chaocipher research, and research of other crypto-systems, has more far-reaching value.  To date, this website has stimulated both historicak and cryptologic interest in other, sometimes unrelated, areas.  Here is a list of my thoughts and observations on this topic:
In summary, research in general, and Chaocipher research in particular, can affect and impact other, unforseen areas.


Copyright (c) 2020 Moshe Rubin
Created: 4 August 2020


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