Friday, August 25, 2006

San Jose Semaphore Solution Theory

After reviewing the posts from Jo, Kelly, Ben and Joann, I think I have a theory that might solve the cryptogram. The critical piece of information is that there is no repeatable pattern of both glyphs and alpha-numeric content that are synchronized (other than short term repeats) and repeated and that two people can observe totally different streams simultaneously. If two people are seeing different broadcasts, then there must be a dynamic key. There are also mechanisms that can force a pattern to break (reloading a web page or a plane flying overhead).

Here is the theory:

Assuming the 16 by 16 grid concept is legitimate, each repeatable block of string-integer points at a coordinate. However, that coordinate is only a partial solution. The glyphs modify the partial solution by stating a path that the solver should take on the grid from that place. I suspect that the glyphs point in sequential order to a path that you would map. For example, if the sequence Kilo 02 is stated with the glyphs - - / \, you might go the grid position of k2, then go one square to the left or right, another square to the left or right, one square immediately to the right and above and another move to the right and below. That would land you on the correct answer.

This theory is supported by Kelly’s observation that “While both listening, we each got completely different combinations of letters, glyphs, etc”. This probably indicates that the observable signals are computer generated and random and combine two or more keys with the cyphertext. This would be a good cryptographic technique because it avoids anyone seeing patterns and/or potentially introduces patterns that might mislead someone trying to solve it. Given Ben pointed out that the creators have cryptographic experience, I suspect they would not use linear keys (too easy to break).

The questions to test this theory:

Given the glyphs are ambiguous as to direction, I suspect that there is another key in the voice or music tones. For example, if the woman’s voice “sings” the number, perhaps that signals that all horizontal moves and left to right, rather than right to left. The tones might also come into play. If the tone is higher than the previous tone, the vertical moves are from bottom to top, if lower than previous, top to bottom.

Also the question remains as to the characters in the grid itself. Is it simply the alphabet repeated over and over? Is it the ASCII table? There might be two grids as well. One with the alphabet vertically laid out and one with it horizontal.

So far I have put about 5 hours into solving this (perhaps a bit more given I think about it sometimes). I suspect that it could not be this easy given the statement that it should take about two years to solve. Either that or Ben, Joann, Kelly, Jo and myself are a good team.

I probably won’t have time to test the theory this week given I have to write several presentations for Adobe Developer Days (Yes - I am Adobe's security technical evangelist) in London the week after next, but I’ll try to map this out and test the theory.

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