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Scariest NSA revelation yet: Spooks are RUBBISH at CIPHERS

'Encrypted' Tweet takes world+dog a moment or two to solve

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The NSA (yes, that NSA) has triggered a bit of a Tweet-storm, followed by helpless fits of giggles among geeks, by posting a job-ad-Tweet that used a simple Roman-style substitution cipher.

tpfccdlfdtte pcaccplircdt dklpcfrp?qeiq lhpqlipqeodf gpwafopwprti izxndkiqpkii krirrifcapnc dxkdciqcafmd vkfpcadf. #MissionMonday #NSA #news

— NSA (@NSACareers) May 5, 2014

The Tweet creeped out some people, but has since been revealed as the first of what the agency says will be an ongoing recruitment campaign seeking “the best and brightest” – and this is where the fits of giggles start.

As noted by the Washington Post, the message uses a simple substitution cipher to obfuscate a fairly prosaic message: “want to know what it takes to work at nsa? check back each monday as we explore careers essential to protecting your nation.”

Not only is the code simple, the ciphertext contains very obvious clues. That there's just one question mark in the text suggests strongly there's an actual question in the text, along the way making rather a mess of the format of using 12 characters in each block of text and hinting strongly that the spaces are meaningless.

El Reg will allow this much: while this cipher is lame, a bright spark in the agency's social media team could have a longer-term plan to generate ongoing interest in the game, by using a more modern and sophisticated cipher on each round.

If the NSA follows history, we guess next Monday's challenge will be a polyalphabetic cipher. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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