History’s most famous codes and ciphers


History’s most famous codes and ciphers. We have been hiding messages from the time we started sending messages. Fast and stealthy messengers carried them back and forth, the main ploy was always stealth. Talking about history’s most famous codes and ciphers, we find one thing in common, the main idea was to simply not getting caught. Because once caught, the contents of message would go in the wrong hands and probably get misused. Once a confidential message gets leaked any undesired person could read it, knew what the message intended, and pretend to be the real recipient.

To avoid any such possibility, ancient codes and ciphers were framed with immense precision. And, we are going to discuss them here in this blog. But before we begin, make sure you understand what the difference between a code and a cipher is. Carry out slight research on your own and then move on to read the most famous codes and ciphers.


How did people in the past encrypt their messages?

Thousands of years ago, people used cryptography to encrypt their messages. It is a process to use codes and ciphers for protecting secrets. Until the last ten decades, it has been the story of “classic cryptography”, an encryption method that involved simple mechanical aids or perhaps pen and paper. With the advent of early 20th century, the electromechanical machines and other complex mechanical machines came into existence. They offered more efficient and sophisticated sources of encryption.
Getting back to the old times, here are some of the most famous codes and ciphers that ever existed.

Skytale Cipher

In cryptography, a scytale, also written as skytale originated in Ancient Greek. It was a tool used to perform a transposition cipher, consisting of a cylinder with a strip of parchment wound around it on which is written a message. The ancient Greeks, and the Spartans in particular, are said to have used this cipher to communicate during military campaigns.
The recipient uses a rod of the same diameter on which the parchment is wrapped to read the message. It has the advantage of being fast and not prone to mistakes—a necessary property when on the battlefield. It can, however, be easily broken. Since the strip of parchment hints strongly at the method, the cipher text would have to be transferred to something less suggestive, somewhat reducing the advantage noted.

The great paris cipher

In the history of cryptography, the Great Cipher or Grand Chiffre was a nomenclature cipher developed by the Rossignols, several generations of whom served the French Crown as cryptographers. It is one of the most famous codes and ciphers that belongs to the history. The Great Cipher was so named because of its excellence and because it was reputed to be unbreakable. Modified forms were in use by the French Peninsular army until the summer of 1811, and after it fell out of current use many documents in the French archives were unreadable.

The basis of the code cracked by Bazeries was a set of 587 numbers that stood for syllables. There were other variations, and Louis XIV’s overseas ministers were sent different code sheets that encrypted not only syllables but also letters and words.To counter frequency analysis, some number sets were “nulls” meant to be ignored by the intended recipient. Others were traps, including a codegroup that meant to ignore the previous codegroup.

Caesar Cipher

In cryptography, a Caesar cipher, also known as Caesar’s cipher, the shift cipher, Caesar’s code or Caesar shift, is one of the simplest and most widely known encryption techniques. It is a type of substitution cipher in which each letter in the plaintext is replaced by a letter some fixed number of positions down the alphabet. For example, with a left shift of 3, D would be replaced by A, E would become B, and so on. The method is named after Julius Caesar, who used it in his private correspondence.

The encryption step performed by a Caesar cipher is often incorporated as part of more complex schemes, such as the Vigenere cipher, and still has modern application in the ROT13 system. As with all single-alphabet substitution ciphers, the Caesar cipher is easily broken and in modern practice offers essentially no communications security.

Morse Code

The list of famous codes and ciphers of history can never fail to include this one. Morse code is a method used in telecommunication to encode text characters as standardized sequences of two different signal durations, called dots and dashes or dits and dahs. Morse code is named after Samuel Morse, an inventor of the telegraph.

The International Morse Code encodes the 26 English letters A through Z, some non-English letters, the Arabic numerals and a small set of punctuation and procedural signals (prosigns). There is no distinction between upper and lower case letters. Each Morse code symbol is formed by a sequence of dots and dashes. The dot duration is the basic unit of time measurement in Morse code transmission.

Flag semaphore

Flag semaphore, that literally means the sign bearer, is the telegraphy system conveying information at a distance by means of visual signals with hand-held flags, rods, disks, paddles, or occasionally bare or gloved hands. Information is encoded by the position of the flags; it is read when the flag is in a fixed position. Semaphores were adopted and widely used with hand-held flags replacing the mechanical arms of shutter semaphores in the maritime world in the 19th century. It is still used during underway replenishment at sea and is acceptable for emergency communication in daylight or using lighted wands instead of flags, at night. Now, let’s move onto to the next in the list of famous codes and ciphers.

Enigma Code

Enigma, device used by the German military command to encode strategic messages before and during World War II. The Enigma code was first broken by the Poles, under the leadership of mathematician Marian Rejewski, in the early 1930s. In 1939, with the growing likelihood of a German invasion, the Poles turned their information over to the British, who set up a secret code-breaking group, known as Ultra, under mathematician Alan M. Turing. Because the Germans shared their encryption device with the Japanese, Ultra also contributed to Allied victories in the Pacific. See also Cryptology: Developments during World Wars I and II.

Smoke Signal

In ancient China, soldiers stationed along the Great Wall would alert each other of impending enemy attack by signaling from tower to tower. In this way, they were able to transmit a message as far away as 750 kilometres in just a few hours.

Misuse of the smoke signal is known to have contributed to the fall of the Western Zhou Dynasty in the 8th century BCE. King You of Zhou had a habit of fooling his warlords with false warning beacons in order to amuse Bao Si, his concubine.

Polybius, a Greek historian, devised a more complex system of alphabetical smoke signals around 150 BCE, which converted Greek alphabetic characters into numeric characters. It enabled messages to be easily signaled by holding sets of torches in pairs. This idea, known as the “Polybius square”, also lends itself to cryptography and steganography. This cryptographic concept has been used with Japanese Hiragana and the Germans in the later years of the First World War.

Pigpen Cipher

The pigpen cipher is a geometric simple substitution cipher, which exchanges letters for symbols which are fragments of a grid. The example key shows one way the letters can be assigned to the grid.
The cipher is believed to be an ancient cipher and is said to have originated with the Hebrew rabbis. Thompson writes that, “there is evidence that suggests that the Knights Templar utilized a pig-pen cipher” during the Christian Crusades.

Parrangan & Parrangan write that it was used by an individual, who may have been a Mason, in the 16th century to save his personal notes.
In 1531 Cornelius Agrippa described an early form of the Rosicrucian cipher, which he attributes to an existing Jewish Kabbalistic tradition. This system, called “The Kabbalah of the Nine Chambers” by later authors, used the Hebrew alphabet rather than the Latin alphabet, and was used for religious symbolism rather than for any apparent cryptological purpose.

Public Key

Public key algorithms are fundamental security ingredients in modern cryptosystems, applications, and protocols assuring the confidentiality, authenticity, and non-reputability of electronic communications and data storage. They underpin various Internet standards, such as Transport Layer Security S/MIME, PGP, and GPG. Some public-key algorithms provide key distribution and secrecy, some provide digital signatures, for example, Digital Signature Algorithm), and some provide both. Compared to symmetric encryption, asymmetric encryption is slow for many purposes. Today’s cryptosystems use both symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption.

These were the most famous codes and ciphers that we all should know about. If you are a history buff, we have several other posts that may lie within the boundaries of your interest. In case you are a student trying to gain information worthy of your being included in your assignments, we have a lot to offer you as well. At AllAssignmentHelp, we welcome each and every reader who has an urge to know something. And, we assist them as per their needs.

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