κρυπτοσ, or kryptos, is a contest open to any and all undergraduate students. The theme of the contest is centered around the breaking, or cryptanalysis, of ciphers (secret writing). Each challenge presents contestents with a brief scenario together with some ciphertext (encoded message). The goal is to discover the original English plaintext message!
Clues to help break the cipher may be contained in the actual ciphertext or in the details of the accompanying scenario.
While it is not the intent of this contest to test overly technical aspects of crypanalysis or advanced mathematical algorithms, some familiarity with basic codemaking and codebreaking is certainly helpful. Some useful sources include:
- Challenges from previous competitions.
- The American Cryptogram Association.
- Wikipedia entries for Cryptography and Cryptanalysis.
- The Code Book by Simon Singh.
- Codes and Ciphers by R.F. Churchhouse.
- Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing by Martin Gardner.
Contestants should also be aware that there are quite a few freely avaialble programs and applets that may aid in some of the more tedious aspects of codebreaking (e.g. frequency analysis). However, keep in mind that there are never any guarantees with such software!
Individual undergraduate students, or teams of up to three, are elligible to participate. Each individual or team must have a faculty sponsor in order to register.
When the contest begins at 4 p.m. PDT on April 18, 2013, the Cipher Challenges will be available at this website on the left sidebar. Begin working and have fun! Solutions need to be submitted by 4 p.m. April 22, 2013. All times are Pacific Daylight Time.
Results will be posted here shortly after the end of the contest. As teams finish each challenge, please prepare and submit solutions according to the guidelines.
Please submit your solutions as you solve each challenge as the time taken to solve a challenge will be used to determine final rankings.