Saturday, January 23, 2016

Interesting articles from academic journals

There are several journals that deal with military and intelligence history and I try to follow some of them in case they publish articles that deal with signals intelligence. Here are some interesting articles from 2015 and early 2016:


Intelligence and National Security

International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence

Journal of Slavic Military Studies

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Compromise of US cipher teleprinter in 1944

When the United States entered WWII several cryptosystems were in use by its armed forces and diplomatic service. The Army and Navy used a small number of SIGABA cipher machines for their high level traffic and had to rely on a large number of hand systems, such as the M-138-A and M-94 strip ciphers and the War Department Telegraph Code 1919, Military Intelligence Code, War Department Confidential Code codebooks, for the rest of the traffic. The State Department relied almost exclusively on hand systems, specifically the codebooks A1, B1, C1, D1, Gray, Brown and the M-138-A strip cipher.

In the course of the war modern cipher machines were designed and built to replace the old systems and securely cover all types of traffic. In 1942 the M-209 device was used in the field and in 1943 the cipher teleprinters Converter M-228 - SIGCUM and SIGTOT were introduced in communications networks. In the summer of ’43 a new speech privacy device called SIGSALY became operational and the first system was used on the link Pentagon-London.  In late 1943 the CCM - Combined Cipher Machine was used in the Atlantic and in 1944-45 the British relied on the CCM as much as they did on their own Typex

By the end of the war the Americans were using several types of cipher machines, all offering a high level of security. William Friedman, head of cipher research at the Army Security Agency, stated in his 1945 reports that the primary US cipher machines SIGABA and Converter M-228 had proven completely secure against enemy cryptanalysts.

In the report ‘Security of our high-grade cryptographic systems’, dated March 1945 he said:

We come now to what, in the circumstances, must be considered as the strongest and most reliable evidence—that which is inferential in and is based upon German cryptography itself. We know so much about their practices that we can deduce and assess their cryptographic theories and thus determine the stage of development they have reached not only in cryptography but also in cryptanalytics. The overwhelming evidence is that they are far behind us and have no appreciation of solution techniques which we now regard as commonplace’.

To summarize: At the risk of sounding boastful, it will be stated that the Japanese are not as good as the Germans, and the latter are not as good as we are in cryptography and especially in cryptanalysis…… the conclusion must therefore be clear: They cannot read and are not reading our high-grade cipher traffic’.

We know now from Ticom reports that neither the Japanese nor the Germans had the slightest success in their efforts to solve messages in the Sigaba, though the Germans certainly tried hard enough. The absolute security of Army and Navy high command and high echelon communications throughout the war was made possible by the Sigaba’.

Results of Ticom operations have established that neither the Germans nor the Japanese were successful in their efforts to solve our Sigcum traffic, despite its great volume, and it is my belief that had we used this machine for secret radio-teletype communications no serious harm to our security would have followed’.

Was Friedman correct? Were all high grade US cipher machines secure during the war?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Unanswered questions of WWII cryptology – progress report

In January 2015 I wrote a summary of the progress I had made in researching some very interesting cases of cryptologic history. What is the state of these cases now? Let’s see.

1). US State Department strip cipher

This case has been (by far) the most difficult of those I’ve had to research. Despite this I was able to make real progress in 2015. I located the report ‘JAT write up - selections from JMA traffic' and used it to write an essay on the material transmitted from Germany and Finland to Japan, I received the report  I-89 ‘Report by Prof Dr. H Rohrbach of Pers Z S on American strip cipher’ and wrote Compromise of the State Department’s M-138-A strip cipher and the traffic of other US agencies.

Also during the year I managed to find a lot of material on the Finnish codebreakers and their work on the M-138-A strip cipher. Regarding the Carlson-Goldsberry report the NSA’s FOIA office has managed to locate it but releasing it will take time.

2). NKVD 5th Department codebreakers

No new information has been published on the work and achievements of the Soviet codebreakers except for some online articles in Russian websites. The article ‘О ВКЛАДЕ СОВЕТСКИХ КРИПТОГРАФОВ В ПОБЕДУ ПОД МОСКВОЙ’, referenced in the book ‘Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence’, says that in late 1942 the Soviet codebreakers analyzed the Enigma cipher machine and developed ways of solving it. However their efforts failed in January 1943 due to German security measures.

3). Referat Vauck success

After locating the reports of Referat 12 i was able to write the detailed essay Allied agents codes and Referat 12. I’ve also requested the postwar interrogation reports of Dr Wilhelm Vauck from the NSA. However locating and declassifying them will take some time.

4). Forschungsamt information

According to the NSA’s FOIA office the Forschungsamt files are coming up for review.

5). German Enigma investigations

The reports of the German Army’s codebreakers on the Enigma are available from government archives in the US and Germany. Unfortunately no one has read and commented on them.

6). Japanese Purple and Coral cipher machines

Regarding the possibility of the Germans solving the Japanese Purple cipher machine I haven’t found any new information but in 2013 I had a brief conversation with mr Otto Leiberich, who worked in the German cipher department during the Cold War period. He told me that he had spoken with mr Cort Rave about this case and he was able to give me some additional information. I’ll write about this soon.

7). Soviet diplomatic code

I’m satisfied with the material I’ve found but there is still the possibility that the Germans solved some OTP traffic during WWII. Even if they did it is possible that the files were destroyed during the war.

8). M-209 decoding device

In 2015 I said ‘I have to say I’m still surprised that this device has not received any attention from historians and/or the media!’ Since then nothing has changed.

9). Unknown unknowns

As Donald Rumsfeld said ‘….. there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know…’.

Clearly there are cases that researchers have completely missed. I’ve been able to identify one such case and will be presenting it soon.