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NSA looks to appeal to young cryptographers through coded ads

Have a crack at code, or scroll to the bottom
Tue May 06 2014, 10:47

nsaTHE UNITED STATES National Security Agency (NSA) has posted a Twitter message in which it apparently asked cryptographers if they want to apply to work there.

The NSA, which has been shaken by Edward Snowden's revelations, put up the coded message over the weekend.

It is pretty obviously a coded message, and we wonder what Snowden might make of it. Twitter users have been trying to crack it, and as you see below at least one Youtube walkthrough is already online.

Most of the NSA job adverts, which come from the @NSAcareers account, make sense to any Twitter user.

This one, though, from late yesterday was markedly different. "tpfccdlfdtte pcaccplircdt dklpcfrp?qeiq lhpqlipqeodf gpwafopwprti izxndkiqpkii krirrifcapnc dxkdciqcafmd vkfpcadf. #MissionMonday #NSA #news," it said, cryptically.

Compared to a normal solicitation for job applicants, it looks very strange indeed.

Szymon Machajewski, of Grand Valley State University's School of Computing and Information Systems said that is a "substitution cipher", and worked backwards from an assumption of what code letter best represents the letter "e".

Machajewski used common online tools, a Javascript method, to crack the code. It took less than eight minutes.

Perhaps disappointingly, the code is not actually a job advert, but a message to come back and check out the NSA job listings on a Monday.

"Want to know what it takes to work at the NSA?" it asked. "Check back each Monday in May as we explore careers essential to protecting our nation."

The NSA is not the first security outfit to use code and ciphers as a lure for potential new employees, and in the UK the GCHQ has also done it. µ


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