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Deciphering "Message X-1"

Discussion in 'TMC Connect' started by Johan, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    It could be, but you could produce a key to have the first 18 characters be anything. So all that was done there was pick a message then generate a key. Since the key is gibberish then I doubt it is the correct message.
     
  2. gregincal

    gregincal Active Member

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    As has been pointed out, you can make the text say anything by coming up with a nonsense key. I think this is a false direction.
     
  3. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    I just moved all the Message X-1 stuff to this thread from "Top Menu".
     
  4. PureAmps

    PureAmps Model S P85 (#2817)

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    Similar to Kryptos K1 puzzle?

    While researching the autokey cipher, I came across a number of references to the Kryptos puzzle at the CIA (I think someone else mentioned Kryptos as well). There are some similarities to Kryptos. The Kryptos puzzles were named K1, K2, K3, and K4 (we have X-1). The cipher text in the Kryptos puzzles was arranged as a square, same as our puzzle. The first two Kryptos puzzles were based on autokey ciphers. We have been given a hint that our puzzle uses an autokey cipher.

    So if X-1 is inspired by Kryptos, then we may actually need to find *two* keys. The solution to Kryptos used a non-standard Alphabet key of "KRYPTOS" for the encoding table. So instead of using ABC....XYZ as the first line, it used KRYPTOSABCDEFGHIJLMNQUVWXZ (see http://www.thekryptosproject.com/kryptos/k0-k5/k1_solution.php), and a key of "PALIMPSEST".

    I found an online decrypt tool online that allows you to enter both an alphabet key and and a passphrase, so you can experiment:

    http://rumkin.com/tools/cipher/vigenere-autokey.php

    I think we may need another hint. :)
     
  5. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Yeah, I had initially been using that tool with the old "TESLAbcdfghijkmnopqruvwxyz" alphabet from a previous encrypted clue.
    But came to the (possibly mistaken) conclusion that we wouldn't have to guess an alphabet and a key at the same time!
    Oh well, time to try plan B.

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    Hmmm... x-1 could be like alphabet "xywvutsrqponmlkjihgfedcbaz"...
     
  6. brianman

    brianman Burrito Founder

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    I fiddled with it quite a bit last night and came to the conclusion that we're missing an additional piece of information and/or set of assumptions.

    I'm not saying we haven't been given that information (or couldn't intuit the assumptions), but I don't thing we've identified them yet.
     
  7. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    I agree. I have been messing around with that site for an hour. Doing some tactics "TESLATESLATESLATESLA..." as the key to see if 5 letters in a row show up correctly (I shifted every thing 0-[wordlength] also. I tried a number of repeated words and wasn't getting anything promising at first glance. This leads me to believe we need to come up with the correct 'alphabet key' or 'tabula recta' in addition to the actual key.

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    maybe x-1 is "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwyxz" 'x' shifted one to the right?

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    Either way we need 2 keys to solve this cipher. A full alphabet, and then a key to start off the decoding.
     
  8. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

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    Goes-to-11.png
    It's so amusing that even the section moderator has no clue what is going on. :biggrin:
     
  9. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    I know. I felt obligated to put in some time today. Plus I am fiercely interested again.

    And that 'alphabet key' set is going to be WAY too big to brute force. We must have some clues somewhere.
     
  10. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    #50 TEG, Feb 5, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
    The tool we are using fills out the alphabet for us, throwing out duplicate letters.
    So, for instance if you put in alphabet-key MODELS, you will see it shows "Alphabet Used: MODELSABCFGHIJKNPQRTUVWXYZ"
    So, I think we are just looking for two passwords (Alphabet Key + Passphrase). I already tried a bunch of combos like "ROADSTER" + "MODELS"
    "TESLA" + "MOTORS", etc.
    Also, I think we need to make sure to select the "Decrypt" option from the pulldown on the site...
    autokey-test.jpg

    Once we find the correct two words/phrases then the text in the bottom box should show a readable message.
    At least, I think this is what we need to do.
    Time for a "million monkeys"?
     
  11. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    This is what I have been doing also. But there is an easier way than to brute force the passphrase, specially because we have (we assume) proper word spacing.

    Fill your passphrase box with a word you would expect in the message given to us (I have been using TESLA, although now as of writing this I don't think any of our other messages actually say 'Tesla') But I used "TESLA.TESLA.TESLA. ..." The way an Autocypher works is if you use a word in the message it will become part of the key.

    So if you get the correct 'alphabet key' and guess a word (longer the better) that shows up in the message you can shift the start (by putting "X" in front of "Tesla.Tesla. ..." and look at the results. If you see 5 letters in your new cypher text that look correct you can put those into your key and expand from the middle.

    Hard to explain. I'll work up a example when I get home from work. I have to get an email out right now.

    Does anyone know of a word (probably 5-7 letters long) that would almost assuredly show up in the message, preferably multiple times? This would allow us to brute force a solution once we get the correct 'alphabet key'.
     
  12. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Try "TRANSMIT", "TRANSMISSION", "TRANSMITTED", "TRANSMITTER", "TRANSMITTING"...
    Maybe just the fragment "TRANSM" ?

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    I think the number 22 is already in the message, not encrypted.
    What could the significance of 22 be?
     
  13. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    Yeah I was just thinking about 'Transm'. I am going to find all the word lengths in the message then try to guess some of the longest ones and try those as well.

    I think I am going to just assume we already have the 'alphabet key' from the direct substitution code eariler 'teslabcdfghijkmnopqruvwxyz'. I don't think there is a way to brute force the 'alphabet' key.

    Two variables makes things hard.
     
  14. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    I am starting to wonder now... Maybe the alphabet key is different.
    Maybe the puzzlemaster has overestimated our abilities.
    I am thinking that the key(s) are obvious words, so the person who created probably thinks it should be easy to solve, but we just haven't realized what those words are.
    Once it is solved, some of us are likely to go "Duh! Why didn't I think of that sooner?"
     
  15. brianman

    brianman Burrito Founder

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    With a sequential fragment (say 10 letters) of original message content "sufficiently after" the length of the passphrase, I'm pretty sure I could solve it (including finding the key). I tried starting with the "it's" and got some confidence the approach would work but 3 letters weren't enough to converge within a couple hours (with Excel and some table lookup equations). I might look some more tonite.

    And yes, I did write some (C++) code to attack the problem. For example, with the plaintext and ciphertext it can successfully identify the length of the key assuming the alphabet key is the simple one. Knowing that it's easy to find the key.

    But knowing none of the plaintext, not being sure of the alphabet key, not knowing any of the key or its length, and having to assume that "if I find more than 3 English words in the proposed plaintext, then I'm on the right track"... is quite an uphill battle.


    Also, "X-1" isn't a very helpful clue. I could guess it to mean 70 different things before even having my first caffeine of the day.
     
  16. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    This is the attack method I was going to attempt. But I don't have any super cool programming skills. I was thinking about looking at the longer words (or the words with punctuation or numbers nearby) and starting there.

    Right now I think the only obvious 'alphabet key' is 'teslabcdfghijkmnopqruvwxyz' or 'tesliveabcdfghjkmnopqruwxyz'. But I suppose it could be ModelS, Mechakon, or whatever.

    I also don't think "X-1" is a very good clue. But maybe there is something about the two color image.

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    Could this be a cipher text and clear text? Could we use this to try to get our key or alphabet?
     
  17. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    No, I just think those were the first letters from the Navajo codes. Probably unrelated to the new message. (But who knows...)
     
  18. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    I am going to try this for a little while.

    I can enter the clear text into the 'pass phrase', the cipher text in the 'message', guess at the alphabet, then just offset the 'pass phrase' (putting 'a' in front) until I see the plan text show up in the answer.

    Worth a shot. I don't know of a better way to try to break this unless we get a good guess of some of the plain text.
     
  19. brianman

    brianman Burrito Founder

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    I that that was the URL that pointed to the image (of the encrypted text), so making it the key or alphabet would be redundant use of the same input. No?
     
  20. ElSupreme

    ElSupreme Model S 03182

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    Yeah looking at where that came from I don't think it is a clear text, cipher text pair. Plus I did a bunch of alphabet guesses with not luck.

    Does anyone know of an attack method for the 'alphabet key'? Other than knowing the other key, and the corresponding clear text.

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    Would this work as an attack method to getting the alphabet? Sure we would have to guess at the key but it may be easier to check an alphabet. I would assume the alphabet will follow the following format "[WORD]rest of alphabet in order". The real important bit being 'alphabet in order'.

    We could use a guess for the key, the cipher text, and produce a 'alphabet'. It should be easy to do a 'pattern' check for a shifted alphabet, or a regular alphabet with a few letters missing.
     

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