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Can you break the code? CryptoRally event to challenge students

cryptorally graphic with image of cipher
October 31, 2013

Think you can decipher secret messages? Try your hand as a super sleuth during the third annual CryptoRally, Nov. 2, at ASU’s Tempe campus.

Students from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, and other students who are interested, will be challenged to solve a series of ciphers – words turned into a secret code. Starting at 10 a.m., teams will receive their first cipher, which can be solved using mathematical techniques. Once a cipher is solved, each team is then led to their next clue, similar to a scavenger hunt.

For the first time, this year’s competition will include a "junior" division for middle school students who have been studying cryptography and practicing their deciphering skills. Prizes will be awarded to the winning teams in both collegiate and middle school-age categories.

The event is directed by Nancy Childress, professor of mathematics, who teaches cryptography and has run the CryptoRally for the past two years.

Cryptography, the technology of making and breaking codes and ciphers, is an important field of study today, according to Childress. “Cryptography applies anytime one is concerned with information security, whether the information is personal, financial, proprietary or defense-related.”

After the competition, there will be a cryptography lecture. In “Cannonballs, Donuts, and Secrets: An Introduction to Elliptic Curve Cryptography,” Lawrence Washington of the University of Maryland will describe how elliptic curves have become very important in cryptography. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is set to begin at 4 p.m., in the Life Sciences E-wing, room 104.

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

The CryptoRally will begin in the Physical Sciences A-wing, room 206. A full schedule of the day’s event can be found at

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