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Students to unlock codes at CryptoRally

November 06, 2012


If you wonder what that means, you may need a cryptologist: someone who deciphers secret messages. Alternatively, you could try your own hand solving clues during the CryptoRally, Nov. 10, at ASU’s Tempe campus.

Starting at 10 a.m., teams should be ready to receive their first secret message, or “cipher,” which can be systematically decrypted. Once a team solves the cipher, it will lead them to their next clue. The competition is like a treasure hunt. Prizes will be awarded to the winning team.

There will also be a pizza party after the competition and a cryptology lecture. Everett Howe of the Center for Communications Research, in La Jolla, Calif., will describe how creative use of elliptic curves, which have simple and elegant mathematical properties, has advanced the field of cryptology in recent years. Industry information also will be available.

Cryptology has many real-world applications, foremost among them computer security. The field is critical for obscuring secret messages sent by the CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies. Codes also can package information efficiently, such as the images embedded within radio signals for televisions, and to protect passwords and other information for banking and other industries.

Cryptology can be challenging yet fun, like building up pieces of a puzzle.

“Creativity and good reasoning skills are a must,” says Nancy Childress, event designer and faculty member in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. “And one definitely needs to learn the math. The math involved is interesting in its own right and there is a significant amount of current mathematical research related to cryptography.”

The event is sponsored by Apriva, a secure mobile communications company based in Scottsdale.

The CryptoRally will begin in the Physical Sciences A-wing, room 206.

You must register to participate. The registration form is available at:

Free parking on the weekends is offered in the Tyler Street parking structure on McAllister Ave. (to the east of campus) as well as the Stadium structure on Veteran’s Way (to the north of campus). Physical Sciences A is on the northeast corner of Tyler Mall and Palm Walk, which cuts through campus.

If you were still wondering about the word at the beginning of the story, try reading it backwards. The puzzles at the competition will likely be more sophisticated, such as the ciphers described in this link:

Written by Ross McBeath

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