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By Anatoly Klepov
Do we know a lot about radio intelligence activities? Very little. We get the knowledge mainly from Western books. How do Western countries assess the radio intelligence efficiency? Churchill, Great Britain Prime Minister, supposed that ““Ultra” (project on German Enigma encryptor decryption – A.K.) was the most important and most secret source of information.” He also stated that “”Ultra” is the tool that helped us to win the war.”
John Slessor, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, shares the same opinion: “”Untra” is ultimately valuable source of intelligence data that had virtually fantastic effect on the strategy or even the tactics of the allies.” Dwight David Eisenhower- Supreme Commander of western allied forces – called the ‘Ultra’ operation as “the decisive factor of allies’ victory.”
Have we ever read anything similar in our commanders’ memoirs? Definitely not. The God of War for us is artillery, tanks, planes, and missiles. This very strategic opinion is most probably still valid nowadays. Do we have efficient and concealed (secured) forces management? In 1941 we had none…
Why have I named my book “Encryptors and Radio Intelligence. Shield and Sword of Information World”?
Reason 1. War.
I started my military service in radio intelligence back in 1972. In one year time, during Gulf of Suez crises, I first realized what real radio war also means that full armies may lose battles simple because the immediate information from commanders of military divisions did not arrive to subordinates on time. Yet the most dangerous outcome was the enemy decrypted or falsified the information.
Without concealed (encrypted) communications hundreds of tanks and planes turned into scrap metal, whereas military divisions became unorganized people having no idea what way to go and where the enemy and allies are.
In general terms, radio intelligence is not a simple radio channel wiretapping and decryption it also implies imposing false information on enemy as well as replacing his messages, etc. Information war determines the military campaign outcome. This is the reason the opposing forces pay special attention to information wars. They conduct the war not only on a battlefield but in mass media as well. Press, radio, and TV are the second front during any large scale conflicts.
Military reporters often send real information from the conflict zones to discover quite a different event overview in the information space. Often press representatives striving to write the truth about war – truth incompatible with the view of world’s mass media agencies – died or perished.
Fortunately, newspapers that send employees to hot spots start to realize that one has to equip military reporter the same way as solders on the battlefield – armored jackets and helmets. Why do paper and digital mass media editorials still do not provide their hot spot reporters with strong encryption equipment to secure the information they transmit?
Years later after my military service and heading ANCORT Company I offered to equip the international hot spot media representatives with encryption equipment. Free of charge.
However, not a single Mass Media agency used the unique opportunity to provide their reporters with a strong and reliable information security system. Why? Going through other wars I realized that that was no coincident. No one wants true information on military actions as it may have more disastrous consequences than the war itself. Even the “most independent” mass media agencies were afraid the messages from their reporters would contradict the official censorship that in addition had no opportunity to control the encrypted communications of reporters. Mass Media heads decided not to provide their reporters with encryption systems despite the fact they left their employees defenseless against the opposing forces on the other frontline side. They could not have been unaware the enemies monitored each and very message transmitted over public communication channels, including the correspondence of Mass Media representatives!
It is interesting when I switched the research from military conflicts to hackers’ crimes against the society and state I discovered a surprising coincidence.
Nowadays international hacker groups performing e-crime make annually over $400 billion. One of the reasons for this to be possible is the absence of strong hardware cryptographic security in global information exchange network, including the Internet and mobile communications. Another reason is virtually no responsibility for committing such crimes! It’s extremely uncommon for such criminals – stealing huge amounts over the Internet – to be caught or penalized. Global Net enables them to commit such actions from the comfort of their homes even being in the other part of the world.
I get a feeling that individual hackers are in fact a complex international organized criminal network aiming at gaining revenue. Moreover, the sad inferiority of the information storage and transfer systems used today is not the only thing that makes it even easier for the criminals to act. Another one is negligence of system administrators who store system passwords and users’ financial information in the places hackers can easily get access to. Just ask the affected persons whether they protected their servers with hardware encryptors. I believe most of them will not even understand what you are talking about. Barack Obama – the US President – confirmed this by saying during an information security meeting that 70% of all US companies use no or extremely weak information security systems.
Now we get a feeling that the officials and politicians prohibit the use of strong encryption because they are afraid to review the old laws and lose the actual ability to totally control the information of the citizens. Hackers worldwide use this bureaucratic paradox to hack into unprotected networks and cause huge financial damage. This is the very reason solders and media representatives die during military conflicts.
However, incorrect use of cryptographic equipment – especially in large-scale wars – also surely leads to tragedy. In the book I provide multiple examples from the history and modern world when the violation of strong encryption equipment use, incorrect encryption key generation, and violation of rules on connecting to encryption equipment resulted in decryption of the top secret information therefore costing millions of military and civilians their lives.
I will give a yet unknown example from the history of cryptography. Experts are aware that the generation strong cryptographic keys is fundamental to creation of strong cryptographic equipment. What was the way the USSR produced encryption keys before 1941?
They used special devices to generate keys to encryption equipment and one-time pads. The devices resembled modern Bingo game machine. The machine featured two units running punch tape. Balls randomly touched the punch tapes generating balanced gamma – random number sequence that was used to generate encryption key. The strength of such encryption keys was miserable. In early 1950th that was confirmed by Vladimir Kozlov – one of the USSR leading cryptologists, associate member of USSR Academy of Sciences.
It was not a big surprise to know the imperfect USSR encryption equipment was one of the reasons of tragedy at the beginning of World War II. The Germans could read even the top secret USSR telegrams up to 1941. I will go in more details in this book.
Now I recall a case from my experience when in late 1970s I decrypted messages encrypted with the top secret USSR cryptographic equipment using simple undulator tape and mathematical compass.
The reason is absolutely the same – incorrect use of encryption equipment. Radio space always demonstrates all defaults in encryption equipment production and usage. It acts as test paper showing all the drawbacks. Unfortunately, some experts are subject to stereotype that once the equipment passes all lab tests one should not control its operation when going life. As my experience shows this approach is totally wrong. Human and technology factors have always existed. These factors may lead to incorrect use of encryption equipment no matter how advanced it is.
I would like to focus on another case to further discuss tragedy arising from unprofessional and improper use of such a powerful force as cryptography. The key conditions for any army to win over the enemy have always been the information exchange secrecy and speed between the commanders and various divisions. Moreover, countless number of lives often depends on encrypted message delivery speed. The ability to deliver secret information as prompt as possible has always been of great value.
Even centuries ago people considered urgent information as valuable as gold. If a message courier’s pay was slightly higher that of a soldier, the pay for express mail was even higher than that a Paduan University professor would get for a year!
That was the pay for information in the XVI century already! Now let’s come back to USSR in the XX century – the century full of wars and conflicts. The country developed encryption system primarily for politicians and top management of the country. However, before the war in 1941 top secret information was encrypted with paper encryption documents. It took a lot of effort and time to encrypt the information in such a way. It was even more challenging when the encrypted information was transmitted over poor communication lines.
Unfortunately, the USSR leaders up to 1941 (war start date) failed to realize the importance of “concealed” (encrypted) armed forces management as the key tool for winning over the enemy. We may trace this fact in Zhukov, Rokossovsky, Vasilievsky and other commanders’ memoires of that period. No one of them mentioned a concealed management of armed forces, including divisions, troops, and so on. You may come across HF communication used by high command of the USSR army. However, NKVD after-war research demonstrated the encryption system was not strong and the encrypted messages probably had been decrypted! I believe this was known even before the research. That was the reason NKVD appointed its soldiers in every 100 meter intervals along the HF communication line. It may appear the most part of information in the war first years were communicated by NKVD couriers, same as back in the XVI century.
The Paradox of Russia. The tragedy that repeats time after time, year after year, century after century and the tragedy that relates to information security should have encouraged the ones who make decisions on cryptography use to give a try and change the situation, to learn the lesson from the past mistakes, make modern information world safe. Ehen…
There won’t be any miracle if we keep everything in our life unchanged. Modern “digital” civilization won’t change for the better on its own. Wars and crimes go on in the information world. Military dictators and criminal geniuses will continue to appear.
This perfectly means world leaders should think not of expanding networks to collect unprotected information and not about the ways to control people’s thoughts but rather about a way to protect the citizens of their states from new threats of virtual world. It is clear that should the world society not take joint care on global information security the civilization will suffer from extremely devastating consequences. XXI century information war has absolutely different logic. The winner will be not the one who has the most powerful information theft means but the one who has the strongest security.
You may wonder what radio intelligence and encryption devices have to do with it. These are the very shield and sword of information world that bring us victories as well as defeats. Strong cryptography nowadays is the only efficient shield capable of protecting the world against any information weapon.
Reason 2. Historical Truth
During my life I have visited 96 countries worldwide where I was lucky to meet and talk to countless people having unique knowledge on our society and the history of civilization. The people I know include heads of government and various government organizations, talented scientists and cultural and religious figures. They knew my main hobby and thanked me for my work and efforts with priceless and king-like gifts – permitting me to study archive documents on history of Russia and cryptography. During one of my multiple foreign business trips I got access to materials on cryptography works of Pushkin’s contemporary and his fried - a well-known Russian scientist Pavel L. Schilling von Cannstatt. By the way, Pavel Schilling’s work as cryptography service head (cipher room) of MFA of Russia has not been mentioned in Russian public sources before. This peculiar fact attracted my real interest. Leaping ahead I will say that the history documents review delivered a great deal of discoveries. Moreover, I was able to look at known things from a different angel. For instance when I studied Pushkin’s works I discovered that the Pushkin’s drawing of an unknown man was actually the picture of his best friend Pavel Schilling. And I am talking about this as well in my book.
However, the more I wanted to learn about Schilling’s activities and work the more challenges I faced. I had to gain various permits and approvals to access historical documents. Even when I got the permit from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to review the historical documents stored in its archive it suddenly turned out that I need another permit from FSB.
When I finally received this other permit as well I was informed that most part of archive of the room was under reconstruction and most materials were unavailable for review. Even those available documents missed multiple pages – excluded from review. Please note 200 years had passed from the events date!
And now I have a question how did Alexander Pushkin himself access the archives when writing the Captain’s Daughter?! The history tells that he had to address the Tsar with request to work in the Cipher Room archive. During a ball evening Pushkin approached the Imperator with his request. Nicolas I favored the request. Still we do know that even with the highest permit MFA officials did not provide Pushkin with access to all archived documents!
Probably Noblemen were afraid of critical analysis of the political elite relations with opposing citizens participating in agitations against the Court and state. The same is true in relation to Peasant’s War under Emelian Pugachev. However, unlike the Streletsky Uprising the Peasant’s War had external political aspect in it – battle of foreign states for influencing the Russian elite even through financing the elite.
Emelian Pugachev’s links to French Kind Louis XIV and receipt of financial aid from him is a clear example.
The described events took place 200 years ago. Why do modern officials keep the secrets of Tsar Russia? What are they afraid of?
Most probably they are afraid of possible unveiling Pushkin’s life philosophy and his views of State and individual relations.
Reason 3. True Freedom of Word and Democracy
As a cryptographer I was shocked by Pushkin words: “It’s better to be on hard labor rather than being wiretapped.” Hundreds of years have pasted and Pushkin remains virtually the only one who publicly declared the state invaded our privacy!
The reality of the threat is proved by letter from a different epoch. Dozens years past Pushkin’s death (in early September 1959) Alexandra – the Russian Impress – wrote to her husband Nikolas II: “My dear and darling... I wish we had a phone wired directly from your room to mine… This would be our private wire and we could talk without any worries of being tapped.” The Impress was concerned that even the Tsar family had no warranty of privacy!
I learned about another interesting fact related to privacy effect on country fate from Russian noble writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I met him back in 1995 while helping to organize the prestigious literature award of Palermo Institute (Italy) for the “In the First Circle” that also told about the development of USSR first phone encryption device. Soon I discovered that apart from cryptography we shared interest in history on freedom of word and democracy in Russia. During our discussion on 1917 revolution and the reasons of Nikolas II’s abdication, Alexander told me: look for the three latest encrypted telegrams of the Empress to the Tsar and you will understand the real reasons of abdication.
Note that the most powerful radio station was located in Tsarskoe Selo. It was mainly designed for Nicolas II to communicate with the army divisions. However, Alexandra – the Empress – sometimes used it to communicate with her husband with encrypted messages.
I managed to discover the decrypted correspondence of the last Russian tsar in the most unexpected place. To my greatest surprise it was published in a book edited in… UK. I believe the publishers did not include many of the most valuable and important telegrams including the messages and letters Solzhenitsyn was talking about. This mystery will be part of my further history research. However, I managed to learn the way the correspondence of the tsar family got outside the country.
Ernest Fetterlein – the head of Tsar Cryptography Service – developed encryptor for the Tsar and empress. After 1917 revolution he migrated to UK together with his colleagues and created a powerful information decryption service GC&CS in UK intelligence. The service up to late 1920th decrypted all messages of Soviet government. Moreover, my history research of tsar encrypted correspondence enabled me to glance at encrypted correspondence between Nicolas II and German Kaiser Wilhelm II and learn a lot of interesting details on the customs and situation of that time.
Let’s return to Pushkin’s words on State role in family values privacy and privilege. I would like to note that not a single revolutionary (Herzen, Tolstoy, Gorky, Lenin) countering tsarism had ever clearly stated that “family privacy should be above all political freedoms.”
We may say exactly the same about noble people of the Western civilization. In the history of Europe and USA I spotted only one person who shared the point of view of Pushkin.
Almost Pushkin’s contemporary – Thomas Jefferson, one of the US first presidents, author of Declaration of Independence – believed that “only strong cryptography that cannot be read by the government” brought the US the real freedom and independence. The two grand persons on different continents thought the same way.
And I asked myself why over the centuries have we started to forget the philosophy in Russia and the USA? Where may we get to with all the limitations and bans on strong cryptography use? Of course, I was first interested in Russia fate that experienced significant losses over the last two hundred years just for this very cause. After 1812 when the Russian army celebrated the victory over Napoleon in Paris we note the ignominious losses: Crimean War, 1905 events, 1914 War. Just take a look, over many years Russia had no large victories. The West gained control not only over Russian finances but the political life as well. Due to the cryptography ban the information on state officials and politicians was absolutely open and available to western special services. That means they had plenty of opportunities to compromise and recruit Russian officials.
Reason 4. Cryptography Role in Modern World
Once without the information shield, Russia lost the wars due to external control.
Just think, World War I in 1914 – Russian army could have entered Berlin and finished the war. However it was defeated thus significantly changing the further world history. The true reason of catastrophe was the compromised encryption system of Russian army used to manage and operate the forces. The German army was able to intercept radio calls between the Russian divisions and had all information about every dislocation of the enemy. That led to destruction of Tsar Army. But for this fact the society would have not had any reasons for dissatisfaction that provoked the Russian 1917 Revolution.
The next page of history is the year 1917. Nicolas II – Russian Imperator – loses access to encrypted communication with his army and Tsar Selo. This resulted in revolution.
1941 – The very first days of World War II. The Natzi got hold of large quantity of encryption equipment, manual encryption documents, and – most important – encryption keys. The encryption system of the Soviet Army fighting with German intruders was compromised and virtually ceased to exist. This was the replay of 1914 events. From the very beginning of 1941 War the Soviet Army had to use plain communication or use courier delivery. That sadly led to deaths of some 6 million USSR defenders, huge material loses in the very beginning of the war!
1979 – War in Afghanistan. I will tell you about the “correct” use of soviet encryption equipment and encryption documents and the results in the second volume of my book. Our soldiers and officers in squadrons, battalions, divisions, and even in larger formations had no strong communication encryption. This resulted in unreasonably high losses.
USSR vanishing in 1991. The USSR president, similar to the Imperator in 1917, was shut out from encrypted communication. The wars in Chechnya. I often quote the words of General Troshev from his book “My War. Notes of Trench General”: “Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. We paid in blood for lack of encryptors.” The very same thing happened during Georgia and Ossetia conflict in 2008. General Khrulev, commander of Russian 58th Army used satellite phone of a newspaper reporter to coordinate the troops in the very beginning of campaign. There was on other way of communication…
It turns out to be that years and centuries of negligence to information security of the country have led to the deaths of the best men of Russia, financial and material devastation of the country. This is when Russia has always been considered as a cryptographic power.
What does prevent us from constantly making the past mistakes? I have expressed my thoughts on this in articles that are now a part of the book. The thoughts about the cryptography role in modern world, information impact on person and the information value, changes it applies to our society is the common theme of my book.
Reason 5. Future of Civilization
We live today in an absolutely different world. The humanity has entered the information era where digital and virtual world is as real as the books, paintings, and pictures. Today the people are not the only ones who exchange the information. Nowadays robots do the same. Our real life is filled with more digital devices with every passing day. These devices include medical ones that can remotely monitor the health.
The devices are more often get connected to the global information exchange computer networks. Just in a few years we will not be able to imagine our life without such devices. Well, who is going to control the ones who control the life of people, our thoughts, and our information?! Scientific and technology progress speeds up with every year. Experts already experiment with replacing real memory with imaginary one. This engages Internet technologies without strong cryptographic security. How much time do we have left until we get a technology to fully control the mind of any person – one, five, or ten years?
Will be a person in the near future able to personally secure himself against hackers and criminals? Won’t someone decide to take up the opportunity to take under control crowds of people?
Even today when we read Edward Snowden’s disclosures we note that there exists a global information interception system and information gets concentrated. Where does all the data flow to?
If Snowden managed to get hold of a great deal of important data from the storage, won’t there be anyone else in the future who will rely on the system vulnerabilities and use the information for absolutely different purposes and serve evil?
Won’t the outdated perception of cryptography role in our life lead to an Information Hitler smartly using the inability of our society to respond to new threats? Won’t we give birth to Information Anti-Christ with our negligence to personal information security of a person?
All of us know the word is derivative of our thoughts. The First Epistle of John reads that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. The Words are the holy base of human society existence and development.
Our words and our thoughts stolen from digital space are accumulated on countless servers worldwide. Who does control them and – more important – has the ability to change the stored information?
That was the reason Baron Rothschild – who made fortune over a few days by amending political information – said: “He who owns the information – owns the world!”
By securing our information against theft, securing our words against amendments we secure the world against tragedy.
This is what my book all about. I want to deliver this very thought no only to the readers but to the power players who are able so far to make decisions without any influence from virtual space.