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The Military Encryption United Kingdom Technology

Bletchley Park Codebreaker Honored 57

Posted by timothy
from the after-due-consideration dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "England has awarded Raymond Roberts, one of the nine cryptanalysts responsible for breaking the Nazi Tunny code machine, (also known by the German designation Lorenz cipher machine) the MBE. Roberts is the last surviving member of the team which cracked the German army's cipher machine functionality, much like others at Bletchley broke the better-known Enigma machine."
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Bletchley Park Codebreaker Honored

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  • by whoever57 (658626) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:49AM (#42419699) Journal
    Seriously, given that the UK probably would not exist today if not for this man's work, an MBE is too little too late.
  • by saibot834 (1061528) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:53AM (#42419715) Homepage

    While probably somewhat known among Slashdotters, I think it is worthwhile to remind people of Alan Turing [wikipedia.org], mathematician, logician, WWII code breaker and father of computer science (as well as being a victim of cruel injustice by the state).

    He's unfortunately by far less recognized than people like Steve Jobs (probably because turing machines don't have rounded corners by design). It's a bit like the story of Tesla vs. Edison [theoatmeal.com]. One was a genius scientist, the other one an asshat making lots of money, without contributing nearly as much to the field, but still being more famous and celebrated.

    • *LOTS* of people should get recognized for work related to crypto. Then again - if you're any good at it, chances are there are groups who would rather you didn't get recognition.
      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:29PM (#42419949) Homepage

        The reason Turing was persecuted by the state, though, and the reason that a lot of people don't want to recognize him even now, is that he was privately homosexual. For many, that outweighs being key to defeating the Nazis, which is simply a shame.

        • by loufoque (1400831) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:51PM (#42420639)

          Turing is not getting knighted because he's dead, not because he was homosexual.

        • by gagol (583737)
          Anal sex, golden shower, or not, Alan Turing made a (more than) great contribution to our society. Whatever anyone can propagate, this truth is alive in me.
        • by abigsmurf (919188) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @06:12PM (#42422327)
          One important thing worth noting was that Turing's clearance would've been removed even if homosexuality hadn't been a crime at the time. As the Enigma was still being used by the soviets and there were big examples of blackmail being used to get information. People who'd had affairs or held other secrets that would publicly embarrass or shame them also had their clearance removed.

          There's also not terribly good evidence he committed suicide. He was known for handling toxic chemicals in a dangerous manner, didn't seem to be suicidal (his life was improving and getting back on track), didn't leave a note and chose a rather odd method for suicide. His family members are all convinced it was an accident.
    • While probably somewhat known among Slashdotters

      Less well known among Slashdotters, in fact among anyone who isn't a serious historian, is the enormous amount of work that wasn't cryptography. There's Huff-Duff. There's the enormous amount of what would be called data-mining today - the cataloging and indexing of all that data so it could be correlated and compared. There's all of the operational research based on that correlation and those comparisons. There's tons of weapons and tactical development b

  • Whew! They achieved the same as the Beatles.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I am called "George Marvelous Esq.", but you can call me Mr Marvelous.

      You do realize that the Esq. and the Mr. are in most of the world equivalent for all intents and purposes.

  • Breaking Tunny (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:32PM (#42419971)

    Tunny was broken because of a test message that had to be resent, and was re-encoded with the same key. The cryptographer was bored, and he made some abbreviations in the second encoding (which was manually typed). That put them out of phase, which meant that the message could be broken in crab-fashion. (Guess a word in the cipher text. If you are correct that gives you a little of the key and thus the decryption of the same block of characters in the other text. That, if you are lucky, will reveal another word, which gives more characters in the second text, which yields more in the first, making the entire decrypt fairly straightforward once you get going.) Breaking that message was enough to reveal how the machine worked, it was reverse engineered, and in operational use it was broken by computer basically from the start.

    All of this because one operator got sloppy on one test message that wasn't even intrinsically important anyway. But, i think it is fair to say that more crypto is broken by sloppiness than by advanced math (not that the math might not be useful in exploiting the break).

    • by TwobyTwo (588727)
      Read Jack Copeland's book [amazon.com] and I think you'll see that some quite remarkable math and perseverance was involved in exploiting the German telex operator's slip up. (Copeland's book is terrific).
  • Using my google de-encryption method, the MBE Acronym appears to stand for the "Multi State Bar Exam" - a degree for Yankee lawyers practicing across state lines. Why on earth did they give that to this poor gentleman?
    • Using my google de-encryption method, the MBE Acronym appears to stand for the "Multi State Bar Exam" - a degree for Yankee lawyers practicing across state lines. Why on earth did they give that to this poor gentleman?

      Welcome to the search filter bubble. [ted.com]

    • by anwaya (574190)
      MBE stands for Member of the British Empire. It's the lowest of 5 ranks in the Order of the British Empire.
      • MBE stands for Member of the British Empire. It's the lowest of 5 ranks in the Order of the British Empire.

        (emphasis mine)

        And also why the leader "England has awarded Raymond Roberts" is a trifle inaccurate. Never mind anthropomorphising a country; like computers, they hate that.

        • by mjwalshe (1680392)
          And its the plebs gong surprising would have thought an ex civil servant of his grade he should have rated higher - probably the old boys network doing the greasy engineers down again.
      • by Xest (935314)

        Yes, and to put those ranks into context, our old local council leader got a CBE (the next rank up AFAIK) for "Services to local government" when those services involved getting it £27million into debt during the boom and times of highest funding, before he left to get paid even more to fuck up another council elsewhere.

        So in other words, getting an MBE is a bit like being told you're just beneath someone who is highly incompetent and arguably even extremely corrupt.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      It stands for "people different from you"

    • It's an Honor bestowed on individuals, military or civilians, who have demonstrated service in the spirit of the Order of the British Empire's motto: "For God and Empire!"

      Like, Sir Jimmy Saville, for his "work with children."

      Or, Sir Anthony Blunt, for his "service" to British Intelligence.

      Although, there have been allegations made in notable British periodicals, such as "The Economist" and "Viz", that monetary contributions to political parties may also have some influence in the matter.

      For Sir Raymond

  • by TwobyTwo (588727) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @05:28PM (#42422067)
    I have had the great pleasure of corresponding with Captain Roberts over the past couple of years. Not only did he and his team make an extraordinary contribution to winning WWW II, he has worked tirelessly since the declassification of the Tunny work to get recognition for the many others who contributed heroically and anonymously. It's quite amazing to talk with someone who had the experience of decrypting Adolph Hitler's personal communications, hours after they were sent. Note that most of the work done by Capt. Roberts and his team was done by hand. Colossus eventually helped with some steps, but not at first, and even then many steps remained to be done manually. At 92 Capt. Roberts remains very engaged and passionate about the work done at Bletchley. If there's a concern, it's that he should have been recognized for his work then, as well as for his recent publicity efforts, and one can make the case that MBE doesn't nearly recognize the magnitude of his contribution. Congratulations, Jerry!
  • Peter Higgs was awarded the Companion of Honour [guardian.co.uk] but he was the exception to the rule, Scientists and Engineers are routinely ignored in favour of those with a large media profile such as Sports stars and Fashion designers.

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