xorl %eax, %eax

My ICCH talk on DE-59 cipher machine

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On July 10, 2021 I had the great honor to present a talk at the International Conference on Cryptologic History (also known as ICCH). Espionage and secure communications history is one of my hobbies for quite some time, and I had even started a Youtube channel last year to share artefacts from my collection, but that talk was a whole new level for me.

In this case I did a far more thorough, multi-month long, research on an OTT-based (One Time Tape) cipher machine used by the Greek government during the Cold War, the DE-59. The device was recently declassified but still there are very few details about it online.

The event was amazing and, as always, the participants included some of the most key people of the cryptologic history space. I would have never even dreamed of meeting those people, not even talking about presenting some cryptologic history content to them and receiving positive feedback about it.

So, excluding the introduction, the talk was revolving about the DE-59. Specifically, I talked about:

  • biographical information of the people behind it
  • situation in Greece at that time
  • its invention
  • how it worked and where it was used
  • pros/cons (based on information from actual users of the device)
  • its (known) cryptanalytic history (AKA foreign intelligence attempts to break it)
  • its decommissioning
  • the important role its inventor played to secure communications in Greece

Before closing, I’d like to thank the following since without them this talk would never have been possible.

  • Association of Retired Signal Corps Officers (ΣΑΑΔΒ)
    • The only DE-59s in display are in this association’s museum, and all the people there were extremely helpful in providing me with all sorts of help and support while doing my research for this talk. If you ever consider donating your radio or crypto equipment, please consider giving it to the museum of this association. If you’re unsure on how to do this, reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help.
  • Tom Perera, Ph. D.
    • Now, if you are into cryptologic history you definitely know who Dr. Tom Perera is. So, this extremely experienced, dedicated, and influential cryptology expert helped me overcome my fear of presenting in front of such an audience of world leaders in cryptology. Thank you for all the support!

Written by xorl

July 19, 2021 at 11:09

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