SLIDESHOW: CIO Blast from the Past - 60 years of cryptography

2009 marks 60 years of computer cryptography and CIO takes a tour of the history of secure communication

  • Cryptography turns 60 in 2009. CIO's Blast from the Past series also includes a slideshow of [[artnid:318956|110 years of IBM technology|new]].

  • Pre-modern era: The Enigma machine. An electric rotor machine that was used by Germany to encrypt and decrypt messages during World War II. Arthur Scherbius developed the Enigma around 1920.

  • 1940s: Claude Elwood Shannon's 1949 paper entitled Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems is generally credited as being the foundation of modern cryptography. According to Bell Labs, the work is transformed cryptography from an art to a science and proves that theoretically unbreakable ciphers must have the same requirements as the one-time pad. Shannon is seen here with an electromechanical mouse in one of the first experiments in artificial intelligence.

  • 1950s: The TSEC/KL-7, code named ADONIS, was a rotor machine encryption system introduced in the early 1950s by the National Security Agency. It had eight rotors and a non-moving rotor in the middle of the stack. ADONIS replaced the SIGABA system developed during the second World War.

  • 1950s: Also in the 50s the TSEC/KW-26 encryption system, code named ROMULUS, was introduced by the US government. Also developed by the NSA, ROMULUS secured teletype circuits with vacuum tubes and magnetic core logic, replacing older rotor-based and electromechanical relay systems. The inset is the TSEC/KW-26C electronic synchronous teletypewriter security system component.

  • 1960s: Until the 1960s, the right to create and break codes was believed to belong solely to US government. In the late 1960’s, however, IBM chairman Thomas Watson Jr, set up a cryptography research group at the company’s Yorktown Heights research laboratory in New York. The group, led by Horst Feistel, developed a private key encryption system called "Lucifer". IBM’s first customer for Lucifer was Lloyd’s of London, which bought the code in 1971 to protect a cash-dispensing system that IBM had developed for the insurance conglomerate. Pictured here is then-IBM Chairman Thomas J Watson Jr as he introduces the IBM System/360 to members of the media at a news conference in April 1964.

  • 1960s: In 1967 David Kahn's The Codebreakers is published. The Codebreakers was regarded as the definitive encryption history book up until that time. Apparently, according to the author James Bamford, the NSA demanded to review the manuscript before publication. Kahn and his publisher agreed and some content regarding the NSA and its British equivalent was removed.

  • 1970s: In 1976 Data Encryption Standard (DES) is selected by the National Bureau of Standards as an official Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) in the US. DES has since been broken and its 56-bit key size is considered too small. IBM and the NSA have quibbled over who was the first to design DES. Image: The Feistel function (F function) of DES.

  • 1970s: Also in the 70s, the RSA algorithm was born in 1977 by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman at MIT (RSA are the initials of their surnames). Adleman is now a professor of computer science and molecular biology at the University of Southern California. He was also a consultant on the movie Sneakers.

  • 1980s: Following the theory of quantum computers in 1981 by Richard Feynman, the idea of quantum cryptography first surfaces in 1984 when Charles Bennett and Gilles Brassard design the first quantum cryptography protocol, BB84. Bennett later demonstrated the feasibility of Quantum cryptography in an experiment in 1989. Inset: Charles Bennett.

  • 1990s: The movie Sneakers is released in 1992. The plot involves a group of ill-fated security experts being coerced into stealing a universal code breaker for encryption systems. With an all-star cast Sneakers becomes a cult classic and brings encryption in the mainstream. RSA designer Leonard Adleman was a consultant on the movie.

  • 1990s: Bruce Schneier's Applied Cryptography (inset) is published in 1994. The book becomes an international best seller with more than 100,000 copies sold. Schneier continues to write and speak about security and is founder and CTO of BT Counterpane, a managed network security provider.

  • 1990s: In January 1996, the Justice Department dropped its investigation against Phil Zimmermann, author of the popular Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption program. Zimmermann had been under investigation for supposedly violating ITAR, the US government's International Traffic in Arms Regulations. His PGP software was strong enough to have been classified as a munition under ITAR, just like a hand grenade or a stealth bomber. In June of 1991, as Congress was considering a possible ban on the use of such strong encryption, the PGP program was uploaded to the Internet, and made available to anyone who wanted to copy it. Even though Zimmermann himself didn't put the software on the Internet, the Justice Department started an investigation against him in February 1993 for allegedly exporting a munition.

  • 1990s: In 1998 the Electronic Frontier Foundation spent $250,000 on Deep Crack (pictured) a computer designed to break DES. It succeeded by decrypting a DES message after 56 hours of work. A year later DeCSS, a computer program capable of decrypting content on a DVD, is published on the Internet.

  • 2000s: Encryption begins to open up as the US government relaxes restrictions on the export of cryptography and RSA Security releases its RSA algorithm into the public domain. A year later the Rijndael algorithm designed by Vincent Rijmen (pictured) and Joan Daemen becomes the US Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

  • 2000s: In 2004 the first commercial quantum cryptography system becomes available from id Quantique (pictured). Fast-forward to 2009 and the QuintessenceLabs QKD system, considered the next step in quantum cryptography, removes problems with slow key generation and dropped the price tag of almost US$100,000 that has dissuaded many governments and businesses from adopting other versions of the technology. For another history slideshow see CIO's [[artnid:268510|Tech of Yesteryear: Where Old Computers Find Their Final Resting Place|new]].

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