Historical Events in Codes and Cryptography
Information security today is a vast field, with more money, publications, and practitioners than all of computer science had a half-century ago (Diffie, 2008). The importance of information security in today’s society is exponentially greater than even ten years ago; businesses crumble at severe security breaches, people lose their identities, and countries lose well-kept secrets. Before this security came into importance, before widespread use of computers and other devices, it was known by another name; cryptology. The science of cryptology, cryptanalysis, and codes/code-breaking has actually played a concise and important role in history going back into the Renaissance era, and earlier. This science decided the fate of many lives and even turned the tides of both World Wars. Cryptographs in literature and letters , written by women, dating back into the Renaissance, during the 1600’s, ultimately lead to the execution of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth’s second cousin. Communications during World War I and World War II between allied battalions were aided by code-talkers, men of multiple Native American heritages, who used native languages and developed codes found unbreakable by the enemy. Also during World War II, Alan Turing developed an electromechanical device called the ‘Bombe’, which was used at Blecthley Park , to decode encrypted transmissions from the German Axis soldiers who were using the Enigma Machine to encode their communications.
Mary, Queen of Scots, was an avid writer during her time. During her flight from Scotland for reasons of ill-marriage, adultery, and religious heresy, she made her way to England, seeking assistance from her 2nd cousin, Queen Elizabeth, to reclaim her throne. Elizabeth was always suspicious of Mary’s intentions because Mary had, at one time, tried to lay claim to the throne of England. During this time, Elizabeth kept Mary in protective custody , and under the eyes of her spymaster. Mary, as authoritative consensus has it, was using a special kind of cryptography that only women of the time period could adequately pull off; the art of hiding messages within perceived illiteracy. This technique was only truly effective due to the status of women as literary figures during the Renaissance. Women were not well received as writers, and many of their works appeared to be of “lower” caliber when compared with the literary works of men. While for some female writers of the time period, this may not be far from the truth, for many others, they used the apparent illiteracy and “womanliness” of their writing to conceal deeper, meticulously literate, hidden messages. Elizabeth’s advisors, despairing of the Queen’s recalcitrance in dealing with a prisoner reportedly plotting against the crown, had to grapple with the problems, posed by a menacing kind of female literacy that only looked like illiteracy (Mazzola, 2010). She...