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FBI Issues Code Cracking Challenge 222

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the test-your-skillz dept.
coondoggie writes to tell us that the FBI has issued another cracking challenge for a new cipher on their site. Tens of thousands responded to a similar challenge last year. In addition to the challenge, the FBI is also offering a few primers on the subject. There are a number of sites offering cipher challenges, but it's funny to see the FBI encouraging such behavior.
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FBI Issues Code Cracking Challenge

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  • First Post (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:25PM (#26263087) Homepage Journal

    Love the article:
     
     

    coondoggie writes to tell us that the FBI has issued another cracking challenge for a new cipher on their site. Tens of thousands responded to a similar challenge last year. In addition to the challenge the FBI is also offering a few primers on the subject. There are a number of sites offering cipher challenges, just funny to see the FBI encouraging...NO CARRIER

    Hillarious.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:28PM (#26263121)

    The winner receives an all expense 1 way trip to the tropical island of Cuba!

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:29PM (#26263137) Homepage
    or whichever foreign government owns the code that the FBI has just recruited the bright kids on the Internet to crack :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sockatume (732728)
      It'll really piss off the NSA (or other TLA) if it turns out that the computer science discoveries made by the competitors transfer to encryption systems they use.
    • by drspliff (652992) <harry.roberts@NOSPAM.midnight-labs.org> on Monday December 29, 2008 @09:47PM (#26264677)

      RTFA... it's an extremely simple substitution cipher, if the FBI had to outsource this I'd be extremely worried about their technical competancy.

      In the age of public/private key encryption, while there's a NSA hashing algorithm competition running with many well respected scientists competing, the FBI's "lab" comes out with this crap?

      • Basically what I was thinking as well. I did it while I was on a conference call, and was disappointed to see that this was all there was to it. I figured at the very least that it was just a first-level and the real puzzle would be on the site. Oh well.

  • Harry you? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:29PM (#26263143)

    Houdini was always searching for better, more clever ways to perform escape acts and illusions. After he would debut a new trick, others would immediately try to emulate the trick. The trick was on them, though, because Houdini would frequently expose their methods (because it was originally his) and prove himself to be the true master magician.

    No difference here. Just the FBI gauging the abilities of the community.

    • Re:Harry you? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Architect_sasyr (938685) on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:43PM (#26263273)
      Or maybe looking for recruits? I'd imagine that if you're an American then working for some agency which will go un-named you would be earning a stack of money, and if you're a foreign national then they're going to set you up with a visa and a passport and some covert operation to fly your geeky self into the United States. Thus maintaining the "best of the best" cryptographic team, or at least trying to.

      Hate to see what happens to the guy who finds the flaw and then says "Sorry, I want to work for [the Chinese]"...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by failedlogic (627314)

        It wouldn't be a far stretch of the imagination that the FBI would highly consider those that have applied to Intelligence organizations but didn't make it. Doesn't mean they are less talented at their jobs. There's all kinds of reasons to choose the FBI over some of the others - there's always +/- trade-offs.

        • ROTFLMAO. failedlogic used "FBI" and "Intelligence organization" in the same sentence!
          1. The "I" in FBI stands for Investigation
          2. One can hardly equate the "challenge" - ridiculous, simple, and breakable by any reasonably educated 12 year old - to be a sign of intelligence
      • by puto (533470)
        I have an old great uncle in South Carolina, mid 80s. For years he has had me assemble or point him in the direction when he buys himself new computers or gadgets.

        And he is amazingly adept with them.

        Turns out my quiet old uncle was a brilliant cryptologist in the OSS.

        He told me they retired him quietly in his 30's with a big fat pensions, and he has been doing nothing and growing peaches ever since. And when he says it his eyes twinkle.
    • by pcolaman (1208838)
      The answer is 42. Where do I claim my prize?
  • by root777 (1354883) on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:45PM (#26263287) Homepage
    The links in the article point to FBI challenges in 2007 and the kids challenge but do not point to the 2008 challenge.

    Here is the FBI Cryptanalysis challenge 2008 http://www.fbi.gov/page2/dec08/code_122908.html [fbi.gov]

    Other helpful links for reference
    2007 challenge: http://www.fbi.gov/page2/nov07/code112107.html [fbi.gov]
    Kids challenge: http://www.fbi.gov/kids/k5th/jobs9.htm [fbi.gov]
    • by Chris Daniel (807289) on Monday December 29, 2008 @07:30PM (#26263691) Homepage

      Also, here's the code (transcribed a damn Flash file; wtf you guys):

      VFWTDLCSWV. YD NSLMIJFWEJFD GSW SL NIJNQBLM FOBV EJFDVF DLNIGTFBSL. KBVBF YYY.AHB.MSK/NSCDC.OFZ FS EDF WV QLSY SA GSWI VWNNDVV.

      Lameness filter ... it was presented in caps on the original, so it is presented as such here!

      • by enFi (1401137) on Monday December 29, 2008 @07:55PM (#26263885)

        Presuming that the text is all the information we need - maybe the got creative and did steganography, or a message hidden in the flash source.

        I agree with the characters; if newlines are relevant:

        VFWTDLCSWV. YD
        NSLMIJFWEJFD GSW SL
        NIJNQBLM FOBV EJFDVF
        DLNIGTFBSL. KBVBF
        YYY.AHB.MSK/NSCDC.OFZ
        FS EDF WV QLSY SA
        GSWI VWNNDVV.

      • Result (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's a pretty simple substitution cipher, and the obvious web address in the code makes it even simpler. A simple bit of guess work and you get the result:
        "stupendous. we congratulate you on cracking this latest encryption. visit www.fbi.gov/coded.htm to let us know of your success"

        The lookup table for the substitution is:
        A : f; C : d; B : i; E : l; D : e; G : y; F : t; I : r; H : b; K : v; J : a; M : g; L : n; O : h; N : c; Q : k; S : o; T : p; W : u; V : s; Y : w; Z : m;

      • by vikstar (615372)

        When I went to www.fbi.com/coded.htm my computer froze for a couple of seconds as my harddrive was working more than usual... hmmmm...

      • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday December 29, 2008 @11:32PM (#26265233)

        Also, here's the code (transcribed a damn Flash file; wtf you guys):

        VFWTDLCSWV. YD NSLMIJFWEJFD GSW SL
        NIJNQBLM FOBV EJFDVF DLNIGTFBSL. KBVBF
        YYY.AHB.MSK/NSCDC.OFZ FS EDF WV QLSY SA
        GSWI VWNNDVV.

        Lameness filter ... it was presented in caps on the original, so it is presented as such here!

        Easy - "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!"

  • Hm. Hidden message.

  • by Jason Quinn (1281884) on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:49PM (#26263317)
    Dear citizens: Please inform us if you have the talents necessary to be suspects in criminal cyber-cracking cases. That is all. Love, The FBI
    • by Almahtar (991773)
      The cypher was too simple to be that indicative of talent. They're obviously just testing how many people have very basic knowledge of this stuff.
  • Except for video games and aliens, it'll be a bunch of crypto guys battling it out with Matlab.

  • by retech (1228598) on Monday December 29, 2008 @06:51PM (#26263341)
    It's interesting to note that all of the participants in the challenge last year got an all expenses paid vacation to an undisclosed location. I guess it was a really cool vacation since none of them returned home.
  • by lamapper (1343009) on Monday December 29, 2008 @07:01PM (#26263431) Homepage Journal
    Reminds me of a security company that issued a hacking / cracking challenge somewhere between 3 and 8 years back, no way could I find this article...perhaps one of your ./ will provide a link...

    The company offered over $10,000.00 for not only hacking and cracking their server, but showing the company how they did it.

    If memory serves (and it sometimes does not) they paid out the first and second years of the challenge, but in year three no one successfully broke into their web server environment.

    I believed they kept eliminating modules that had holes and were not needing and closing holes in modules that were needed.

    Based on what I read, they were able to 100% successfully secure their web servers from attacks only because they were using Linux as the OS.

    I remembered comparing their results with others attempts with other operating systems and really wanting to learn Linux.

    Now that I am using Unix and Linux and have a better understanding of what they were doing I can see the simple genius in such challenges.

    Whether just for security or for scouting talent, whatever their reasons, its money well spent when they offer cash prizes to the few that are successful!

  • by bennomatic (691188) on Monday December 29, 2008 @07:06PM (#26263463) Homepage
    It was not, shall we say, stupendously hard. A little common sense and some patience was all it took. I expected that I'd be looking at something a little tougher than I used as clues in the scavenger hunt at my 10th birthday party.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday December 29, 2008 @07:07PM (#26263477)

    Oh, come on. This is from an organization that cut funding for terrorism just before 9/11 to add resources to software piracy. Do you really think if they had the brains do do cryptanalysis they'd...

    oh wait.

    I suppose they are looking for brains, huh.

    • Oh, come on. This is from an organization that cut funding for terrorism just before 9/11 to add resources to software piracy.

      But if the Evil Content Pirates(tm) steal music, the The Terrorists Have Won(tm).

    • by ricebowl (999467)

      I suppose they are looking for brains, huh.

      You're saying the FBI are zombies..?

    • by nelsonal (549144)
      There was a story in puzzle palace about a code that some mobsters were using that had stumped the FBI, they took it over to the NSA as a friendly challenge (the NSA folk weren't supposed to work on domestic stuff). The NSA cryptanalysts cracked it over a single lunch break.
  • Interesting that FBI uses plone as their CMS and not Wordpress and they have IE compatibility CSS code like the rest of the planet.
    Clue: Is there a reason why they have the crypto code displayed as a flash file and not a simple png or jpeg file?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 29, 2008 @07:12PM (#26263511)

    "Be sure to drink your ovaltine"

    What the hell does that mean?

  • I win (Score:2, Funny)

    by binaryseraph (955557)
    I have decrypted. Answer is: U R under Arrest.

    damn!
  • And the winners get all expenses incurred DMCA prosecutions!

  • by Dice (109560)

    There were some dead give-away cribs.

    Spoiler below...

    sed -e s/H/b/g -e s/D/e/g -e s/A/f/g -e s/M/g/g -e s/B/i/g -e s/S/o/g -e s/K/v/g -e s/Y/w/g -e s/V/s/g -e s/F/t/g -e s/W/u/g -e s/T/p/g -e s/L/n/g -e s/C/d/g -e s/G/y/g -e s/N/c/g -e s/I/r/g -e s/J/a/g -e s/E/l/g -e s/Q/k/g -e s/O/h/g -e s/Z/m/g fbi.txt

    • Re:Easy. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by laddiebuck (868690) on Monday December 29, 2008 @08:48PM (#26264303)
      As one UNIX lover to another...

      tr '[abcdefghijklmnoqstvwyz]' '[fideltybravngchkopsuwm]'

      Happy man reading!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dice (109560)

        I actually started working on it with tr but then decided that I didn't want to bother with counting character placements to be sure I got it right. With sed I could just tack on extra '-e's as I deduced substitutions.

        • by Gulthek (12570)

          Why not just pipe to tr and add on characters in lowercase as you find them?

          $ echo "BLAH" | tr '[BLH]' '[trp]'
          trAp
          $ echo "BLAH" | tr '[BLAH]' '[trip]'
          trip

  • Why embed the text in a flash object? code [fbi.gov]... I would of given this a shot if I could of relied on some normalized text, but no... that would make sense. Sense and gov't obviously don't belong in the same room. Yea... I am a little disappointed.
  • what it should be (Score:2, Interesting)

    what it should be:

    coondoggie writes to tell us that the FBI has issued another cracking challenge for a new cipher on their site. Tens of thousands responded to a similar challenge last year. In addition to the challenge the FBI is also offering a few primers on the subject. There are a number of sites offering cipher challenges, just funny to see the FBI encouraging 4J58I4JTK5NRO4844/4534852WDVJRIN67/368RB8XC0GJFNFXVXCVJVXV8R/GE8F/RETWQ8ER8WRHQ98CVUXHE8V09E8Q/WRWE8Q7T-E8THQEW/CHICKEN438R8SDFUEFNX7/4UDFJD7F

  • Cryptogram tool (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jade E. 2 (313290) <slashdot&perlstorm,net> on Monday December 29, 2008 @07:28PM (#26263667) Homepage

    There are automated ones out there that solve this in under a second, but if you want to figure it out yourself try this page:

    http://www.esg.montana.edu/meg/consbio/cryptogram/crypto.html [montana.edu]

    Here's the puzzle text to copy:

    VFWTDLCSWV. YD NSLMIJFWEJFD GSW SL NIJNQBLM FOBV EJFDVF DLNIGTFBSL.
    KBVBF YYY.AHB.MSK/NSCDC.OFZ FS EDF WV QLSY SA GSWI VWNNDVV.

  • What ever you do, DO NOT let the FBI congradulate you on your success.
  • Took me longer to find a pencil than to crack the damn code. Now on to much more interesting things, like watching my three year old arrange the perfect train crash under a footstool.

  • V'q yvxr gb gnxr guvf bccbeghavgl gb fnl "Uryyb!" gb nyy zl snaf va qbzrfgvp fheirvyynapr.
  • Heh, can't figure this one out on your own?

    You don't help them violate your privacy.

  • ...I've gotten rusty over the years, shaddup!

    I was hoping for more of a challenge, sheesh.
    Then again, it was a somewhat enjoyable coffee break distraction.

  • it's funny to see the FBI encouraging such behavior

    Yes, rather strange...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

      it's funny to see the FBI encouraging such behavior

      It reminds me to the series of letters of George Mercies, about "Invisible Contracts [constitution.org]".

      [For example, in the U.S.S.R., the KGB is known to have secretly "created" (sponsored is more like it) -- various protester groups for the sole purpose of throwing out some attractive philosophy designed to attract a certain type of individual, and then having "extracted" those individuals from society, and having thus identified them -- then shutting down the organization

  • good grief (Score:2, Insightful)

    by denaje (1170715)
    I hope they don't guard any sensitive data with encryption that easy
  • Answer (Score:2, Informative)

    by ottffs (532209)
    I've solved it and posted the answer for y'all. Check it out here: http://c0nn0r.info/blog/2008/12/29/i-pwned-the-fbi-cyphertext-challenge-in-about-45-minutes-using-a-pen-and-paper/ [c0nn0r.info]
  • call your mom on the phone and tell it to her. You'll hear from the FBI 15 minutes later if you found the correct answer.
  • "it's funny to see the FBI encouraging such behavior"

    Probably best categorized under "know your enemy"...

  • The FBi issues a code to be cracked with the simplicity of a 3 on a scale of 1 to 100 in terms of advanced technologies used in current cryptography. HAha - / they aren't looking for the 99% of society that can figure out the simple sub ciPher. Food for thought: With present technology in cryptography pushing the upper maxim of what we as a species are capable of understanding (in terms of entropy of data with a key) - lets just say someone went another direction. Intelligent "believable" misinformation i
  • "coondoggie writes to tell us that the FBI has issued another cracking challenge for a new cipher on their site. Tens of thousands responded to a similar challenge last year. In addition to the challenge, the FBI is also offering a few primers on the subject. There are a number of sites offering cipher challenges, but it's funny to see the FBI encouraging such behavior."

    -.....so they can know who to declare a threat to national security and round up. What's next? Lawrence Livermore and Sandia having a conte

  • its simple really, and kills several birds with one stone. They are concerned with the 'hackers' who keep cracking this stuff, MAFIAA is annoyed that people keep cracking their often laughable security / encyption (who remembers the magic marker solution). Mafiaa pays them to host the challenge, and 'protects' some material with the very thing being 'cracked' in the challenge.

    Then clearly they round up all the winners, let the DMCA circumvention suits fly, and add them to watch lists all at the same time.

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