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Cracking the Cipher Challenge

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In “The Code Book”, a history of cryptography, the author Simon Singh included ten encrypted messages with a prize of £10,000 for the first person or team to decipher all of them. Thousands of amateur and professional codebreakers took up the Cipher Challenge, but it took over a year before the messages were cracked. Simon Singh will be talking about how he constructed the Cipher Challenge and how the winners eventually cracked it. He will also be using the Cipher Challenge to give an introduction to the history of cryptography and to demonstrate why encryption is more important today than ever before. In particular, he will discuss what the Cipher Challenge can teach us about Internet security and he will be demonstrating a genuine Second World War Enigma cipher machine.

Since studying physics at Cambridge, Simon Singh has been a TV director, author and broadcaster. He directed on both Tomorrow’s World and Horizon, and his books include Fermat’s Last Theorem, The Code and Big Bang. Next year he will be presenting a series on particle physics for BBC Radio Four.

This talk is part of the SciSoc – Cambridge University Scientific Society series.

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