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Amazon.com Hosting Crypto-Contest 184

Posted by Hemos
from the test-your-31337-skillz dept.
vic20 pointed us over to Amazon's crypto contest/promotional item. Crack the message, and you can get signed editions of books like Cryptonomicon, Applied Cryptography, The Code Book, and Between Silk and Cyanide as well as LEGO Mindstorms. They'll be giving more hints as the contest goes on, with a deadline of 11:59 PM PST Oct. 29.
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Amazon.com Hosting Crypto-Contest

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The contest says it expires at 11:59 pm(PST) on Friday, October 29, 1999..

    unless Amazon is 1+ days ahead of everyone else, we will still be on PDT not PST then.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Reviews.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    068-486-42-23-87-434-10-468-151-345-150-494-376-41 5-426 if Im not mistaken,... standard ascii goes upto about 177 octal, 127 decimal But I did notice two things (okay so Im not helping my chances at winning here).. the first 4 numbers are formated the same on each line (three, three, two, two).. and the first two lines have the SAME numbers for the first part at that. first thought it might be a checksum.. but eh,... how can a checksum come out the same for the first two lines when they are differant? :)
  • Two observations:

    • 54 symbol alphabet
    • They took care to preserve some leading zeros, but not others. Perhaps it denotes upper/lower case?

    What does that mean? no freaking clue.

  • Since the contenst is targeted to a much wider audience, I doubt the code will be 'cryptographic'. Most likely a combination of substitution, context, maybe something like 'first letter from the second word from excerpts for all books with titles starting with A'. You know, just a clever puzzle/riddle to play with. You probably WILL need the clues.
  • Yup, all the first 10 digits from every line are ISBN numbers... I doubt the rest of them refer to the book in any way, why would they offer the same books as the prize? ;)
  • I got to doing this last night... fuck word... I just threw a sed command together that removed quotes and converted punctuation to spaces, then ran the comments through xargs -n (word#) -p file

    I came up with everything there and made my submissions... it took about 30 minutes, but the main clue came from the fellow who mentioned reviews. :-)
  • LOL
    I drove all the way to rochester, NY to have "Troubleshooting Analog Circuits" by Bob Pease signed by the man. Ended up I stayed in the same hotel as him the night before the seminar and I ended up with half a bottle of apricot brandy in my gut before I went to bed. :-/

    Acutally that's how he takes his coffee... 1/3 brandy :-)
  • Actually, breaking codes that don't rely on computational power is quite fun. Games magazine has had substitution ciphers each month practically forever.

    I had a problem set which involved two texts encrypted with the same one-time-pad, where we were supposed to recover the texts. It was remarkably fun in the same way that Games tends to be fun.
  • Did that in about 2 minutes, and it occured to me I wanted a numerical sort.

    #!/usr/local/bin/perl
    while ()
    {
    foreach (split(/-/,$_))
    {
    chomp;
    $count{$_}++;
    }
    }
    print "results ------- \n";
    foreach (sort(numeric(keys(%count))))
    {
    print "Number of $_ is $count{$_}\n";
    }

    sub numeric
    {
    if ($a $b)
    {
    -1
    }
    elsif ($a == $b)
    {
    0
    }
    else
    {
    1
    }
    }


    ------------------

    $ temp.pl
    038-097-34-64-242-335-51-377-183-168
    038-097-34-64-380-330-115-289-273-189-56
    068-486-42-23-87-434-10-468-151-345-150-494-376- 415-426
    038-549-53-15-1-193-121-29-109-66-28-160-106
    047-111-70-99-24-21-25-12-53-22-56-8
    results -------
    Number of 1 is 1
    Number of 8 is 1
    Number of 10 is 1
    Number of 12 is 1
    Number of 15 is 1
    Number of 21 is 1
    Number of 22 is 1
    Number of 23 is 1
    Number of 24 is 1
    Number of 25 is 1
    Number of 28 is 1
    Number of 29 is 1
    Number of 34 is 2
    Number of 038 is 3
    Number of 42 is 1
    Number of 047 is 1
    Number of 51 is 1
    Number of 53 is 2
    Number of 56 is 2
    Number of 64 is 2
    Number of 66 is 1
    Number of 068 is 1
    Number of 70 is 1
    Number of 87 is 1
    Number of 097 is 2
    Number of 99 is 1
    Number of 106 is 1
    Number of 109 is 1
    Number of 111 is 1
    Number of 115 is 1
    Number of 121 is 1
    Number of 150 is 1
    Number of 151 is 1
    Number of 160 is 1
    Number of 168 is 1
    Number of 183 is 1
    Number of 189 is 1
    Number of 193 is 1
    Number of 242 is 1
    Number of 273 is 1
    Number of 289 is 1
    Number of 330 is 1
    Number of 335 is 1
    Number of 345 is 1
    Number of 376 is 1
    Number of 377 is 1
    Number of 380 is 1
    Number of 415 is 1
    Number of 426 is 1
    Number of 434 is 1
    Number of 468 is 1
    Number of 486 is 1
    Number of 494 is 1
    Number of 549 is 1
  • Well, their "Project Kangaroo OGR" (http://www.distributed.net/ogr) has been 'coming soon' for about 6 months now, so I wouldn't depend on them for this contest.
  • Am I the only one who noticed something rather...fascinating about the Title bar on a certain [amazon.com]

    So let me get this straight. Harry Potter traveled to the land of the Mighty Ns'AH, where everybody lived happily ever after in peace with one another because of free simple crypto that's simple to crack but still can't be exported...

    *WHACK*

    Oops. Sorry about that, lost my sense of humor for a second. ;-)

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com

  • Somebody slap me for not hitting preview.

    Sorry for the UglyCode(TM). --Dan

  • If I had to guess, I would think that the contest must be offered in French to be legal in Quebec. That's a guess, though. The reason is certainly because of legal restrictions on contests in Quebec.
  • How long does it them distributed.net chaps to turn-around a new module?

    rOD.

    --
  • This even look remotely familiar to anyone or are we going to have to wait for some hints before there's a realistic chance at deciphering it?
  • Hey, they are offering these books to just any old person from any old country! There should be a law against that! STOP THE PROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MATH INSTRUCTION!!!

  • I left out a few words: "being twice the number of letters in the alphabet" should have been "being two more than twice the number of letters in the alphabet", since Solitaire uses the standard 52 cards of the deck, with two mapping to each letter of the alphabet, plus the two jokers as fenceposts, or placeholders, to divide the deck into two groups, for a total of 54.

    The algorithm consists of several fancy cuts, moving the jokers around, etc., and ultimately selects a single card. The process also puts the deck into a different permutation (and there are about 2.3 * 10^71 permutations), so repeated applications will produce a pseudo-random sequence of cards. The numerical values of the cards are used as a one-time pad to encrypt the message. This solves the problem of key distribution for one-time pads, because two parties can start with identically-shuffled decks and generate the same keystream. I don't know the math of how it works, but supposedly the pseudo-random stream is good enough for the system to be pretty secure.

    David Gould

  • The number 54, being twice the number of letters in the alphabet, as well as the size of a deck of playing cards, including jokers, sort of brings to mind Bruce Schneier's "Solitaire" cryptosystem, or at least it does when you mention Cryptonomicon at the same time.

    If you haven't read it: Schneier devised a cryptosystem called "Solitaire" that is you can use to encrypt and decrypt messages by hand with a pack of cards. In Cryptonomicon, two characters use this method to communicate, and Schneier's paper describing the system is included as an appendix.

    Though low-tech, Solitaire is supposedly secure against modern attacks, so if this contest uses it, it would be pretty hard. Then again, the number 54 and the relation to the book are the only evidence for it, so it's probably unrelated.


    David Gould
  • This seems to be very similar to the PR stunt/contest the canadian backpack maker used about a year ago. If i rememebr correctly it generated quite a stir.
    I can't seem to dig up the name or URL of the company? was it ever cracked, did the contest work?
  • also, the first number of every line starts with 0

    --Siva

    Keyboard not found.
  • Well, this may be equivalent to a one time pad, but here goes: Make a bunch of numbered lists of letters (lists can be empty). The message is decoded by taking the first number in the message and reading its list, add the second number to the first number and read that list. Add the third and read that list, and so-on. You may need to create a lot of these lists, but by doing so, you can make any message you want.

    I don't have a second algorithm handy that is vastly different from the first, but I do have this: subtract alternating numbers to produce a new list (for the singleton at the end, subtract 0). When you have only one number left, this is the answer. Just because it is not a valid English sentence doesn't mean that this is not a valid interpretation of the numbers. Sort of like what's the next number in this sequence: 3,3,5,4,4,3,5? The "answer" is supposed to be 5 because these are the number of letters in each number one=3,two=3,three=5, etc. But this could equally be following some sort of polynomial.

  • Yes, I read the rules, and I realize that the order of submission doesn't matter a whole lot. But, there's a nice bit of ego involved in knowing I had the right answer before someone posted the algorithm to /. for the whole world to see.

    --Joe
    --
  • The ISBN is important, yes. In calculation, no. (I'm pretty sure I just solved the cypher. The message was twisted enough that it just might be right.)

    --Joe
    --
  • by Mr Z (6791)

    I wonder if my solution (all of which was grammatically correct) made it in before the /. effect hit. *sigh*

    --Joe
    --
  • Oops..

    s/onclick/one-click

    ;)
    --
  • also, the first number of every line starts with 0


    Yes, that is cause, 0 denotes (i believe) caps. So the first letter of every sentence is captilized?
    --
  • "Your third sentence ends in a preposition (something generally frowned on in grammatical circles)."

    This is bunkum and/or tummyrot. Even the new edition of Modern English Usage (aka the infamous Fowler) doesn't condemn terminal prepositions. Others who are not opposed include Strunk & White and the Chicago Manual of Style. Rewriting a sentence to avoid a TP usually results in something abysmally stilted and weird-sounding.

    I'm a rampant prescriptivist myself, and usually very intent on correcting others' usage and grammar, but even I don't consider terminal prepositions something about which to complain.

  • I did find it funny. You think their simply kissing up to the pro-privacy crowd? If they thought cryptography was so good, why do they allow people to send their credit card information plain text across the internet? And at the rate you guys are going, that message is likely cracked at the time I post this.
  • Maybe not a checksum--I'm guessing perhaps a unique key for each line.

    One wonders if the formatting as presented is even significant.


    -W-
  • 0380973464 is cryptonomicon the first has 6 remaining numbers and the second has 7
    0684864223 is between silk and cyanide w/ 11 remaining
    0385495315 is the code book w/ 9
    0471117099 is applied cryptography w/ 8

    crypto is 6 letters, nomicon is 7
    i don't know 11 or 9.
    schneier is 8 letters long.

    --
    "New worlds are not born in the vacuum of abstract ideas, but in the fight for daily bread..."
  • I believe there is a legal requirement that the contest be a "contest of skill" as opposed to a "contest of chance". A lame test is sufficent to make it a "contest of skill".
  • Uhm... isn't that IS*B*N?

    -LjM
  • Since the folk who created the contest could choose to encrypt any phrase they desired, I don't see why they'd start with something that hackneyed. I'm guessing that the secret message is something along the lines of:

    "Congratulations, you've discovered the code. You are a superior human being. Now get back to work!"

    Now if I could just figure out which string of numbers corresponds to the word "superior"...

  • It was in *my* family!

    Come on, tell me someone else got their start cracking codes their daddy (or mommy) wrote on the back of the paper menus at pizza hut!

    Okay, so maybe there are fewer daughters (and sons) of Analysts and Cryppies than I thought


  • If you search Amazon for "Harry Potter" you come up with a bunch of kids books, and there actually was a "Harry Potter Magical Candy Contest" put on by Amazon a while back -- so this is either the deadest of hints, OR just a mixup on the part of their web developers...

    -- Zifter
  • I played around with tr and cut to automate the process a bit. First, put the relevent text into files as appropriate, and then run them through this:

    cat textfile | tr -d "\t\n\n" | tr "-" " " | tr "/" " " | tr -s " " | tr -d "!" | cut -f wordnumber -d " "

    where textfile is the name of the file containing the text and wordnumber is the number of the word you're looking for. So, numbers do count as words, and in hyphenated words the hyphen is the same as a space.

  • The rules say one entry per person... not one correct entry per person, so you'd better double-check your answer before you send it in.
  • I'm glad someone else noticed that.

    As an owner of Applied Cryptography I pulled it out to see if the remaining numbers in that sequence made sense as page numbers -- try the first word of each page, last word of each page; nothing sensible; took the numbers as pairs in hopes of one being page number, the next being word on the page ; no dice -- it can't possibly work on the other books (look at the numbers)., Also there are different numbers after the ISBNs for each book, so pairing, etc., won't work.

    Then took the numbers modulo 26 to see if they map to the alphabet. Then tried modulo the title length ... no dice.

    Took the first letter and/or last letter from each page with that number. Nope.

    went and got some pot roast and that's where it stands.

  • Perhaps the 0 denotes the beginning of a word, rather than capitalization?

    -Joe
  • "Buy more stuff!" Err, wait, that was the subliminal message. The secret message was "7hi$ /\/\3$$4g3 |-|4X0r3D bY 31337 d00dz."
  • by Pope (17780)
    excluding Quebec for some unknown reason

    This is usually because of Bill 101.
    If it ain't in French, you can't go near it in la Belle Provence. It makes me sick.

    My friend Dave who is a native Montrealer, said that last year the Provinical Gubmint started going after web sites that didn't have the proper accents in their URL.
    And you thought the US Gubmint went after some dumb-ass policies! :)

    PpoE, gettin' out the slide rule and HyperCard to do some Crypto!
  • s/onclick/one-click

    Substitution replacement not terminated at - line 1.

  • Is there any point in us outside the US participating in this competition? I just wonder if the prizes are allowed to be exported from the US?
  • Yeah, the whole 'random drawing' angle sorta cuts out the feeling of accomplishment. Plus they give way too much time for the contest. They'll have TONS of entries to draw from.
    Oh well. Maybe _someday_ I'll get a Mindstorms kit... or I could just do 6.270 :)

    As far as counting words goes, try
    ^u-[number]-Meta-f
    for a better count than MSWord is giving you.
    (ahhh, emacs!)
  • 038-549-53-15 is the ASIN for The Code Book : The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary, Queen of Scots to Quantum Cryptography

    047-111-70-99-24 is the ASIN for Applied Cryptography : Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C

    the rest of the numbers in the series may be word or page numbers from those books. Hopefully not since the only book I own is Cryptonomicon.

    Maybe the rest of the numbers refer to something in the web page for each book on Amazon.com?
  • or does this look like it might say "Just annother perl hacker"?
    ---
  • Neal Stephenson's own crypto challenge

    http://www.eruditorum.org/ [eruditorum.org]

    Which I am only posting here, because I have had zero success with it myself.

    Besides, I am sure NS's 'neat prize' will be way cooler than amazon.con
  • Ok, you guys seem to be getting ahead of yourselves. This competition specifically says, no funky math skills. THe first 10 digits in each line refer to the four books linked off the Amazon crypto contest page, with the first one mentioned twice. The first ten digits are their respective ASIN numbers. Now, just need to figure out the other numbers
  • How about revealing a ciphertext, plaintext and the algorithm and having people try to crack the key?

    well, that would basicaly give the prize to whoever had enough CPU power to crack the code the ability to. and it would make for a pretty dull contest IMO.

    You're second idea is a little better, but I think there going for somthing a little more 'historic', similar to the cyphers used before we figured out how to make unbreakable crypto (without quantum computers...). This is designed to be something that anyone can crack, not just the propritors of distrobuted.net.

    anyway, who knows what the 'clues' are going to be : )
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • Applied Cryptography is a novel now?
    There's more to this contest then cryptonomicon.
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

  • I think it'll be something that's in Amazon's interests. Perhaps the numbers after the ISBN number refer to letters from the title, or are review/word references. Something that makes us
    search through their site.

    My link is too slow at the moment to pursue this, and I'm not in the US. (bah!)
  • Of course, since it is "strong" crypto, it can only be cracked in the US or Canada. Take a look at the rules. [amazon.com]
  • Didn't you read the rules? Anybody who submits the correct answer by Oct 29th gets entered in a drawing.

    Since what Amazon really wants is to add your email address to their list, I think we can safely assume that the hints will give away the answer to anyone smart enough to run a browser, and that, like e-trade says, somebody's going to win, it just won't be you.

    Shaun
  • I get the same solutions for the last two

    "People need the best selling conflict in the information age"

    "The suitable specialist offers steps for secure source"

    I don't think numbers are being counted as words, thus Detachment 2702 is one word, and possibly War II is one word. I agree that the hyphens are a pain. I did a global replace of ' ' with '^n' in vi, then replaced double hyphens by hand. I still haven't decided wheter to cosider single hyphens one or two words...

    I'll fiddle with it somemore and see if I can get the first three phrases to make more sense...

    LetterRup
  • they are probably just trying to sell some copies of these books by doing this. That's why they have the "no purchase necessary" disclaimer in their rules.
    ^. .^
  • Anyone considered looking for an obvious pattern, such as Amazon or crypto? Pick up values based on position in alphabet, look at the differences, and compare those and look for a pattern.
  • 1) Your method of breaking this cypher will become property of and patented by amazon.com

    Heh! Then Amazon will own the patent on checking slashdot for the answer. Bummer!
    --
    I wrote the play & still own the script ...

  • I understand why the US and Canada are the only places this is valid but why not Quebec???
  • they could also rotate or wrap around 0-255 or 0-26 just to throw people off.
  • by Zurk (37028)
    a bit of alphabet for code substitution ought to crack that..anyone got the frequency analysis of english ? there is no . so one of the numbers has to be a stop.
  • Oh yeah, that hit me hard too. But your "Come on Ma" quote was what put me over the edge :) RP
  • ...Zork II? Great game, but the baseball-puzzle was a total bitch. Hey, I'm European and I don't have a clue about baseball (nor any other sports, for that matter, but in that sense I am atypical ;-)
  • by _ECC_ (43365)
    When I see oppurtunities to crack code like this, I just think of the movie Pi and I get all giddy like 'a little school girl' (-said in my best Hans and Frans voice)... I know I won't be the first to crack it.. but its a lot of fun going thru the commonalities of the codes... and the possibilities... perfect clean fun for a little hacker.

    Perhaps when they said 'fun for the whole family', Amazon was speaking in more a general sense like.... the Jumble... and Crosswords.... because aren't those coded messages? Lord knows they sure are cryptic sometimes...

    btw... if you haven't seen the movie Pi... I suggest you do so.... excellent film... good sound track... although its not really 'fun for the whole family' kinda entertainment.

    3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169307

    Thats as far as I can remember it right now... been a while since I was at 100 characters... and don't quote me on those last 4 up there...

    -Ecc
  • Heh, on this similiar topic (sorta) i noticed that on the Taco Bell&copy old "Star Wars" contest, there was a line on it "Residents of Canada must take mathmatical skills test before ward of prize money" or something similiar. This struck me as funny, and i wonder if those who have a good knowladge of laws, could explain this to me. cause its quite,, unexpected.
  • The reason is because Quebec has stricter laws than the rest of Canada. It's not that uncommon for contests to exclude Quebec. And that sentence doesn't imply Quebec isn't part of Canada.
  • I changed to to do a frequency count for each number mod 26:

    $ ./freq
    038-097-34-64-242-335-51-377-183-168
    038-097-34-64-380-330-115-289-273-189-56
    068-486-42-23-87-434-10-468-151-345-150-494-376-41 5-426
    038-549-53-15-1-193-121-29-109-66-28-160-106
    047-111-70-99-24-21-25-12-53-22-56-8
    results -------
    Number of 0 is 2
    Number of 1 is 4
    Number of 2 is 2
    Number of 3 is 3
    Number of 4 is 3
    Number of 5 is 1
    Number of 7 is 3
    Number of 8 is 4
    Number of 9 is 1
    Number of 10 is 2
    Number of 11 is 2
    Number of 12 is 8
    Number of 13 is 2
    Number of 14 is 1
    Number of 15 is 1
    Number of 16 is 3
    Number of 17 is 1
    Number of 18 is 4
    Number of 19 is 2
    Number of 20 is 1
    Number of 21 is 4
    Number of 22 is 1
    Number of 23 is 2
    Number of 24 is 1
    Number of 25 is 3

    Still doesn't look promising...
  • Quite obvious: to comply with the language laws, they'd have to encrypt the french translation as well :)
  • How about revealing a ciphertext, plaintext and the algorithm and having people try to crack the key? Or at least some plaintext and ciphertext pairs, along with a larger message that is to be cracked without specifying anything about the algorithm.

    By the way, the message reveals who really shot JFK. It's produced by a one time pad. ;)
  • by jd (1658)
    I thought that was the message Windows 2000 loaded into the first 256 bytes of RAM.

    (Extra marks for those who get this. :)

  • Crypt-analysis? *blink* I know halloween is getting close, but even so... :)
  • At first glance anyway.
    That was the first thing I thought of. :)

    $ temp.pl
    038-097-34-64-242-335-51-377-183-168
    038-097-34-64-380-330-115-289-273-189-56
    068-486-42-23-87-434-10-468-151-345-150-494-376- 415-426
    038-549-53-15-1-193-121-29-109-66-28-160-106
    047-111-70-99-24-21-25-12-53-22-56-8
    results -------

    Number of 038 is 3
    Number of 047 is 1
    Number of 068 is 1
    Number of 097 is 2
    Number of 1 is 1
    Number of 10 is 1
    Number of 106 is 1
    Number of 109 is 1
    Number of 111 is 1
    Number of 115 is 1
    Number of 12 is 1
    Number of 121 is 1
    Number of 15 is 1
    Number of 150 is 1
    Number of 151 is 1
    Number of 160 is 1
    Number of 168 is 1
    Number of 183 is 1
    Number of 189 is 1
    Number of 193 is 1
    Number of 21 is 1
    Number of 22 is 1
    Number of 23 is 1
    Number of 24 is 1
    Number of 242 is 1
    Number of 25 is 1
    Number of 273 is 1
    Number of 28 is 1
    Number of 289 is 1
    Number of 29 is 1
    Number of 330 is 1
    Number of 335 is 1
    Number of 34 is 2
    Number of 345 is 1
    Number of 376 is 1
    Number of 377 is 1
    Number of 380 is 1
    Number of 415 is 1
    Number of 42 is 1
    Number of 426 is 1
    Number of 434 is 1
    Number of 468 is 1
    Number of 486 is 1
    Number of 494 is 1
    Number of 51 is 1
    Number of 53 is 2
    Number of 549 is 1
    Number of 56 is 2
    Number of 64 is 2
    Number of 66 is 1
    Number of 70 is 1
    Number of 8 is 1
    Number of 87 is 1
    Number of 99 is 1

    A silly little script, but will post it anyway.
    #!/usr/local/bin/perl
    while ()
    {
    foreach (split(/-/,$_))
    {
    chomp;
    $count{$_}++;
    }
    }
    print "results ------- \n";
    foreach (sort(keys(%count)))
    {
    print "Number of $_ is $count{$_}\n";
    }

  • Remember that most assumptions are candidates for being wrong :-)

    To make a good cipher like this, you would usually make a misleading code. Not that I've got any better ideas...

    BTW, why should _always_ such things be restricted to the U.S. and Canada? :-(

    /* Steinar */
  • Money dun said:

    Here we have Amazon offering 'a major prize' for cracking the code. This reminds me of the sceen in the movie 'A Christmas Story' where the star of the movie (an 8 year old boy) is trying to 'crack the code offered by a radio show (the show was sponsored by Ovaltine). To every day, the little boy listened intently as they gave another piece of the puzzle, and every day, the little boy would use his secret decoding ring to decipher another piece. And finaly, after weeks and weeks of work and toil, the final message was finaly deciphered, and it read: 'Drink more Ovaltine'

    *chuckle* It's funny you mention that...I thought the same thing, m'self. (Then again, I've been reminiscing on that anyways; Jean Shephard, who wrote the book that "A Christmas Story" was based off of ["In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" [amazon.com]], passed away a few days ago.) Thinking of Little Ralphie and the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin :3

    Oddly, that one movie was responsible more than anything (short of my grandpa's old radio) for me getting into old-time radio MP3s... :)

    Seriously, though...(ObSlashdot) I've been farting about with the idea of maybe making a little decoder proggie based off the Captain Midnight and Radio Orphan Annie decoder pins. (There are at least three models of the latter and two of the former, with different key setups. I unfortunately haven't yet been able to find a good picture from the 1940 model of the Radio Orphan Annie decoder pin (the last year they did them, if memory serves) to get the code-key for that...shame, too, because I wanted to see what the radio program decoded to and if it really DID decode to "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine". :) I figure it should only be a little more difficult to implement than ROT13 :) and preferably menu-selectable as to what code key you're using (yes, this is meant for OTR buffs who want to decode along :).

    ObSlashdot the Second: over on one of the OTR sites (which I can't seem to place at the moment) there is actually a discussion on substitution cyphers and other forms of cyphers in relation to the Captain Midnight/Radio Orphan Annie decoder pins :) If it can be found again, it'd prolly be useful for ideas as to how to solve the cypher for the Cryptonomicon copy.

    Dumb Useless Trivia: Both Captain Midnight (in the early-to-late 40's) and Radio Orphan Annie (in the mid-30's to early-40's) were sponsored by Ovaltine. Probably not incidentially, both were sponsored by Ovaltine at the same time they had the decoder pins going (Ovaltine switched to Captain Midnight in the 40's, figuring kids liked Indy Jones-esque pilots rather than little girls with auburn locks to hock chocolate malt mix). The code spoken in the Radio Orphan Annie segment in "A Christmas Story" might not be what Ralphie wrote down (I need to watch it again to make sure...gods help me, I've damn near got the entire movie memorised to the point I can recite lines from it before they happen :). Radio Orphan Annie really WAS largely an Ovaltine advert (I've got a Real Audio recording of a show from 1938-ish, the show was all of fifteen minutes long, and fully seven of it was an advert for Ovaltine), so that much is right (yes, I HAD to check to see if it really was that bad...you all think commercials are bad NOW...some of the 1940's kid's shows WERE in all essence infomercials). There's at least another movie based off "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" ("Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss", which at least in the mid 90's sometimes showed on the Disney Channel, and is depicted as showing Ralphie and co when Ralphie is around twelve-ish). Yes, there really were such things as Red Ryder BB Guns, there really was a radio promotion, and yes, I'm proud to say they are still being manufactured (I've seen the actual things at Wal-Marts before, and yes, they really ARE branded as Red Ryder air rifles :).

    And finally...I can sympathise with Ralphie on the Ovaltine bit. My folks, instead of buying Quik, bought Ovaltine because it was supposedly "healthier". They still did sillybuggers with the caps up to 1979-ish (with stickers free in a can of Ovaltine)...as far as I know they are STILL doing crap with the lids and/or for sendoffs. (I seriously doubt that most Americans drink Ovaltine that much anymore; at least not kids, because there's prepackaged chocolate milk and Quik and other chocolate-drink mixes. They still sell the stuff, though...) Oddly, though...I am maybe one of three Americans who has never drank Tang. Sunny Delight, yes. Tang, no. I expect some day I shall be caged in a museum as an example of the last natural-born American citizen who has never drank Tang (to hear folks talk, it must be the official childhood "health-drink" the same way Ovaltine was in the 40's, and that apparently if you have never drank the Orange Stuff That Is Product Of NASA Engineering as a kid you were either an immigrant, raised by wolves, or both). :) At least AFAIK Tang hasn't done sillybuggers with the caps yet though :)

  • Given any list of numbers, it is trivially easy to come up with an algorithm that turns these numbers into whatever message you want. What if I just say that the message is "I am the walrus, koo koo ka choo" and show my algorithm. Do I win the prize?
  • This msg is encoded using our on-click(tm) patented encoding scheme.

    This encoding is subject to US and international Patent laws.

    Unauthorized decrypting of this encoding would result in our revoking of your onclick membership

    Happy Onclicking.
    --
  • If Amazon expects people who don't have their high ASCII characters memorized in octal to win, they aren't going to have their final answers encoded in ASCII or UTF8 or anything of the sort. If they map characters to numbers, it will be 1-26.
  • There's a famous cryptogrophy code out there, I forget the name of it, but the story is this: someone discovered it (it came in three pieces), and supposedly cracked the second piece, which explained the first and third pieces of the code would tell him where some rich treasure was. The second piece of the code was coded by using numerical values standing for the number of letters into a document, in this case the document (he claimed he discovered) was the US Constitution (so, the 10th letter in "We the people of the United States..." would be 'l').

    That's the beale cyphers you're talking about. There are three sections, saying where it was buried, what it was, and who it belonged to. To date, only the second has been solved, and it was based on the declaration of independence in the same way as this cyper. It is thought that the other two sections are based on similar documents or the same document in different ways. (Or they could be a hoax)

    A couple of URL's I found for it are:

    http://einste in.et.tudelft.nl/~arlet/puzzles/sol.cgi/cryptology /Beale [tudelft.nl]
    http://tre asurehunt.miningco.com/hobbies/pastimes/treasurehu nt/blcd1.htm [miningco.com]
    They are also mentioned in the sci.crypt FAQ [umr.edu]

    --
  • D R I N K

    M O R E

    O L V A L T I N E
  • Right Here!
    http://theory.stanford.edu/people/jcm/cs099j/mk- 98-2/sld008.htm

    For those of you too lazy to cut and paste, the run down is:
    E ~= .12
    TAOINSHR ~= .06 - .09
    DL ~= .04
    CUMWFGYPB ~= .015 - .028
    VKJXQZ ~= .01

    Kintanon
  • Yes, that is cause, 0 denotes (i believe) caps. So the first letter of every sentence is captilized?


    So why would the second letter of the first 2 sentences be capitalized? Unless the first letter is I and the second letter is the beginning of a proper name? But that is assuming thant 0 denotes capitalization and that they use proper syntax for capitalization of names.

    Kintanon
  • Just wanted to point out a couple things for those who might not have noticed.
    038-097-34-64 = ASIN for Cryptonomicon
    068-486-42-23 = ASIN for Between Silk and Cyanide
    etc, etc
    No other hints on the other numbers ;)

    -rob
  • Here at Amazon.com, we like to think of cryptography as a good, wholesome activity,
    providing hours of fun for the whole family.


    I almost blew milk out of my nose!
    Come on Ma! Lets go crack some codes!
    Is it just me our did this phrase strike anyone else as funny?
  • What will the NSA say when they find out that _foreigners_ can crack the good ole American code? Or even win a signed copy of Cryptonomicon?? What is this country coming to?

    (also, first post correct grammar first)

  • I put my solution on a web page. (I want to see if I can get SlashDotted ). However, I recommend that you verify the answer. It seems to have worked out, and all of the answers are grammatically correct, but I may have messed up.

    The spoiler [byu.edu]

    Have fun! And let me know if I made any mistakes.
  • People outside of the US and Canada (excluding Quebec for some unknown reason) are ineligible to win the book (as well as the other prizes).

    (also, first post correct grammar first)

    If you are flaunting your own grammar, you may want to note that your second sentence is not a sentence and has excessive punctuation. Your third sentence ends in a preposition (something generally frowned on in grammatical circles). If you were criticizing the original story itself, then you may want to note it was a spelling error in the title. The grammar of the post is generally fine.
  • Here we have Amazon offering 'a major prize' for cracking the code. This reminds me of the sceen in the movie 'A Christmas Story' where the star of the movie (an 8 year old boy) is trying to 'crack the code offered by a radio show (the show was sponsored by Ovaltine). To every day, the little boy listened intently as they gave another piece of the puzzle, and every day, the little boy would use his secret decoding ring to decipher another piece.

    And finaly, after weeks and weeks of work and toil, the final message was finaly deciphered, and it read: 'Drink more Ovaltine'

    I just get the feeling that the message at Amazon will read 'All hail Bezos'. :)

  • 242: this
    335: is
    51: (a
    377: truly
    183: strange
    168: deception.

    380: funky
    330: protagonists
    115: are
    289: destined
    273: to
    189: want
    56: appendices)


    More in a few minutes!
  • I live outside the United States and Canada. Can I still enter?
    Sorry, the offer is open only to residents of the United States and Canada, excluding Quebec.
    Why isn't this contest open to international customers?
    Unfortunately, we are unable to offer this contest to residents outside the United States and Canada due to the complexity and variety of international legal requirements. We hope you understand that we are subject to certain legal limitations.

    *Sigh*
    When will the U.S. stop being in a continuous state of national emergency (dating back to the years of the big depression, no kidding)?

  • Here it is folks - please pardon the ugly perl code :-)

    First, the answers:

    ISBN: 0380973464, remaining contest text 242 335 51 377 183 168
    this is (a truly strange deception.

    ISBN: 0380973464, remaining contest text 380 330 115 289 273 189 56
    funky protagonists are destined to want appendices)

    ISBN: 0684864223, remaining contest text 87 434 10 468 151 345 150 494 376 415 426
    he had great Marks for the easiest execution. of enemy) explosions

    ISBN: 0385495315, remaining contest text 1 193 121 29 109 66 28 160 106
    People need the bestselling conflict, in the information age

    ISBN: 0471117099, remaining contest text 24 21 25 12 53 22 56 8
    the suitable specialist offers steps for secure Source

    ------------
    Now, the code:

    ------------
    #!/usr/local/bin/perl
    # Cynthia Brown 19 Oct 1999

    # Contest strings saved to file contest.txt
    $contest = "contest.txt";
    open (CONTEST, $contest) || die $contest;
    @contest = ;
    close CONTEST;
    # These are Amazon's pages of the various contest prize books saved to disk
    @reviews = ("applied.txt", "between.txt", "codebook.txt", "cryptonomicon.txt");

    foreach $line (@contest) {
    @line = split ('-', $line);
    $isbn = shift (@line) . shift (@line) . shift (@line) . shift (@line);
    printf ("\n\nISBN: $isbn, remaining contest text @line");
    foreach $book (@reviews) {
    system ("grep \'ISBN: $isbn\' $book >/dev/null\n");
    if ($? == 0) {
    open (BOOK, $book) || die $book;
    @book = ;
    close BOOK;
    # Move down to the start of the reviews
    while (@book[0] ne " Reviews\n") {
    shift (@book);
    }
    shift (@book); shift (@book);
    printf ("@book[0]\n");
    # Lose trailing \n and merge into 1 big honking string
    chop (@book);
    $foo = "";
    while (scalar (@book) > 0) {
    $foo .= shift (@book);
    }
    # Lose multiple spaces, etc.
    $foo =~ s/--*/ /g;
    $foo =~ s/__*/ /g;
    $foo =~ s/\// /g;
    $foo =~ s/ ,/,/g;
    $foo =~ s/ */ /g;
    $foo = substr ($foo, 1, length($foo)-1);
    # printf ("$foo\n");
    # Get the words based on the offsets
    @foo = split ('\s', $foo);
    foreach $offset (@line) {
    $bar = @foo[$offset - 1];
    printf ("$bar ");
    }
    printf ("\n\n");
    }
    }
    }

    ==================================
    neophase
  • Hey if you already can crack then why would you need a book on Cryptography? signed, give me a break. Legos on the otherhand are a score.
  • ...but darn, I'm just too lazy to act upon it.

    They're right...it doesn't require any difficult math skills, except for counting.

    I wouldn't have gotten this myself, but seeing how the rest of ./ has developed it this far, I might as well carry out the explination...

    Taking a look at the first two lines:
    038-097-34-64-242-335-51-377-183-168
    038-097-34-64-380-330-115-289-273-189-56

    Notice, first of all, the first four numbers repeat themselves. Second of all, see how only the first number is a three digit number with only two significant digits (a zero before two digits), while the other numbers don't begin with a 0. I was suspicious about this, and with the ./ users recognizing these digits as asin numbers, the rest of it falls into place.

    There's a famous cryptogrophy code out there, I forget the name of it, but the story is this: someone discovered it (it came in three pieces), and supposedly cracked the second piece, which explained the first and third pieces of the code would tell him where some rich treasure was. The second piece of the code was coded by using numerical values standing for the number of letters into a document, in this case the document (he claimed he discovered) was the US Constitution (so, the 10th letter in "We the people of the United States..." would be 'l').

    Since no numberical values repeat outside of the ASIN values, I believe it's logical to conclude that it's not a letter assigned to a number (this being emphasized by the clue Amazon left us saying that it requires no difficult math skills).

    Since we have concluded that the first four numbers correspond to the ASIN values of books, it's logical to conclude that each line corresponds to something from that book, and this is supported by Amazon repeating the digits "038-097-34-64" in the first and second line, rather than just sticking in a whole string of numbers after it calls the ASIN value. Also, it's fair to believe (but might be false) that each line corresponds to a word rather than looking for an ending or spacing character.

    And from here on, I believe the solution lies in grabbing the books from the shelf. So, whoever is the fastest and most determined at this can do one of two things:

    1) Count characters into the book from the beginning corresponding to the numbers in the code after the ASIN value, but I think this is unrealistic because of all the prologues, copyrights, etc. and the annoyance of counting in the first place, or

    2) Think the characters correspond to specific pages, and try and figure out what common character to use on each page (first character, last, etc.)

    I know this is quite lengthy, but for anyone who's less lazy than I am and doesn't mind running histerically through Barnes and Noble or some library searching for these books, I think this is the sollution for a bunch of free books.
  • Modulo arithmetic, encryption keys, x^n?

    I think these fall under the category of the 'special math skills' that Amazon says you don't need. Dumb it down a tad. This contest is supposed to be winnable by people who get stumped by crossword puzzles in the USA Today, not by some paranoid lunatic that uses Ordo Novus Seclorum to read his e-mail and encrypts his grocery list so that no one will find out that he's buying stinky cheese and miniature vegatables.

    (Wow! Look at the margins on miniature vegatables!)

    - Orange Julius
  • by jelwell (2152) on Monday October 18, 1999 @02:51PM (#1603901)
    For those who don't like random drawing/contest - you can bid for Signed copies of Cryptonomicon... Signed by Neal Stephenson [ebay.com] or even Linus Torvalds [ebay.com].

    -Note: I'm not selling either. :)
    Joseph Elwell.
  • by Nylathotep (72183) on Monday October 18, 1999 @04:30PM (#1603902)
    Or at least I believe its the solution.

    As someone pointed out, the first 4 groupings is the ISBN of the book. If you pull up the book in Amazon, each has a review by Amazon. The numbers are word offsets. The key thing to figure out is what they consider a word... I just did a preliminary scan through and came up with the following, if someone spends some time, they can undoubtably get it right...

    Resonates from 918 tech to Alan

    all ties brilliant coffers an sinks in

    sent explains department cut and to men forget zoo would than

    People need the bestselling conflict in the Information Age

    The suitable specialist offers steps for secure source


    As you can see, its not perfect. I was using Word, cutting text then using word count to get position. Things like hypenated words were screwing me up. But the last two sentences seem to well fitted to be chance.

    if your asking why im posting this, well, this is some scam contest they are running for two weeks, with a "random drawing" at the end. Yeah right. Ive spent about as much time as I want to on it, Id be curious to the final solution once whoever it is puzzles it...
  • by Section9 (98240) on Monday October 18, 1999 @04:25PM (#1603903)
    Distribuited.net's approach to brute-force cracking works fine, so long as you know how the message was encrypted, but just neet to find the proper key to decrypt it.

    What Amazon has done is to give people the cypher-text and challenged them to recover the plain-text.

    This is why crytanalysis is SOOO interesting. This is more of a "real-world" scenario. You get some stuff and have to find out how it was encrypted and what it says.

    Amazon's challenge is much more difficult than the RSA challenges. RSA tells you what encryption algorythm is used and what the beginning of the plain-text message is.... all that's left is key-recovery. Here people will have to think about how to attack the problem first, then try breaking the code.

    HINT: Presuming that Amazon's message is in English, and is most likely a cypher (be it block, substitution, output feedback) with standard math knowedge necessary, I can offer the following assumptions for all the budding crypoanalysts on /. ::

    It is most likely a subtitution cypher

    It is somewhat likely that these are not added modulus anything. (Due to the high range of values)

    A good starting point would be to compare the recurring numbers within the cyphertext with common letters in the English language.

    Most of all: Have fun...At least you don't do this for $$

  • by Signal 11 (7608) on Monday October 18, 1999 @03:03PM (#1603904)
    The message is "this message is not yet here."

    --
  • by Kaa (21510) on Monday October 18, 1999 @04:47PM (#1603905) Homepage
    As has been pointed out, 0380973464 is the ISDN for Cryptonomicon, so

    038-097-34-64-242-335-51-377-183-168
    ---ISDN------ C R Y P T O

    038-097-34-64-380-330-115-289-273-189-56
    ---ISDN------ N O M I C O N

    and further on,

    068-486-42-23-87-434-10-468-151-345-150-494-376- 415-426
    ---ISDN------ T H E C O D E B O O K





    Kaa
  • by Seth Finkelstein (90154) on Monday October 18, 1999 @09:08PM (#1603906) Homepage Journal
    The lines seem to relate to the books themselves

    038-097-34-64-242-335-51-377-183-168
    Cryptonomicon
    This is a truly strange deception
    038-097-34-64-380-330-115-289-273-189-56
    Cryptonomicon
    funky protagonists are destined to want appendices
    068-486-42-23-87-434-10-468-151-345-150-494-376-41 5-426
    Between Silk and Cyanide : A Codemaker's War 1941-1945
    He had great marks for the easiest execution of enemy explosions
    038-549-53-15-1-193-121-29-109-66-28-160-106
    The Code Book : The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary, Queen of Scots to Quantum Cryptography
    People need the bestselling conflict in the information age
    047-111-70-99-24-21-25-12-53-22-56-8
    Applied Cryptography : Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C
    The suitable specialist offers steps for secure source

  • by Shaheen (313) on Monday October 18, 1999 @04:09PM (#1603907) Homepage
    Well, not that I'm a crypto expert, but let's see how quickly a brute force decipher could take...

    Okay, I obviously have to make a few assumptions. First off, I assume each number between dashes is a single alphanumeric. And since I said alphanumeric, you know I mean A-Z and 0-9.

    There are 61 alphanumerics in this message. HOWEVER, I believe we can safely assume that each line is a phrase on its own. If so, we can solve each separately. The breakdown is 10, 11, 15, 13, and 12 (yes, that adds to 61).

    So, we have 36^n combinations for each line (n being the # of alphanumerics in each line).

    Sum(36^n for all n) = approx(2.1249 * 10^23)

    Let's say that it takes 1 millisecond to calculate a single permutation. (I have *no* idea whether that is a fair estimate - I'm definitely no expert in cryptography).

    This would make worst case time for solving the code would be 7.011 * 10^12 years. Of course, this doesn't rule out the possibility that there are multiple valid solutions (ie. the code interpreted differently still results in a valid English statement) and other such weird phenomena. I would guess the best chance to cracking this thing, at first, would be to find the weights of each of the numbers between the dashes, and compare that to the English alphabet's weight. At least, that might get you an E or something. I'll let someone who knows what he's talking about comment on that.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. -- Woody Allen

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