back to article Scariest NSA revelation yet: Spooks are RUBBISH at CIPHERS

The NSA (yes, that NSA) has triggered a bit of a Tweet-storm, followed by helpless fits of giggles among geeks, by posting a job-ad-Tweet that used a simple Roman-style substitution cipher. tpfccdlfdtte pcaccplircdt dklpcfrp?qeiq lhpqlipqeodf gpwafopwprti izxndkiqpkii krirrifcapnc dxkdciqcafmd vkfpcadf. #MissionMonday #NSA # …

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  1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Happy

    So to get the job

    do I send in my resume encrypted with a one time pad?

    1. Graeme5

      Re: So to get the job

      To get the job you plant your resume on their server.

      1. 's water music

        Re: So to get the job

        They already have your resumé, and they already know which bits are not true.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
          Joke

          Re: So to get the job

          But they don't have the resumé that was hidden in a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard", and that might (or might not be) the correct one.

          Besides, if they know so much about everybody, they already know who is perfect for the job, don't they?

          I think my tinfoil hat is on too tight

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So to get the job

            Ever thought they got a copy of it BEFORE you stuck it all the way in the sticks? That's the thing about secret information you have to use. At some point, you have to dig it out to actually USE it, and THAT'S where they normally get you.

            1. Wzrd1

              Re: So to get the job

              Well, to royally piss everyone off, they've long had my resume.

              I've not bothered to apply to work for them though. They just know me from testing DoD networks I was responsible for, my documentation and my networks repelling multiple known problem sets.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Well done.....

    ....all the people having a go at the NSA have done EXACTLY what they wanted, you are all talking about it, after all, no such thing as bad publicity.

    If it had been extremely hard to crack, I doubt it would of even made the Tech websites, let alone mainstream media.

    NSA: 1

    Smart arse twaters: 0

    Next week, more bait traps.

    1. Charles Manning

      Errr...

      "There's no such thing as bad publicity" only applies to actors, celebrities and radio shock jocks who live by their notoriety.

      For secret organisations that are supposed to live in the shadows there is no such thing as Good publicity.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        The NSA is longer in the shadows.

        Personally, I don't know what I find more disturbing : the fact that the NSA publishes a job recruitment pitch on Twitter, or the fact that the NSA has a Twitter account in the first place.

        1. Tromos

          @Pascal Monett

          It's quite clever really. Anyone applying via this route is immediately rejected. Facebook is up next.

        2. Wzrd1

          "Personally, I don't know what I find more disturbing : the fact that the NSA publishes a job recruitment pitch on Twitter, or the fact that the NSA has a Twitter account in the first place."

          And so, you betrayed your ignorance to the entire planet. The NSA has long had a Twitter account.

          Indeed, far, far longer than I have. But then, I'm not recruiting code monkeys or mathematicians.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: Errr...

        The NSA came in from the cold more than 15 years ago. There was a time within my memory when you drove past the exit for their main campus and there was no sign. Today it is well marked, proudly proclaiming it is the headquarters. A friend of mine who worked at Hopkins use to have people who query about a good place to live that was equidistant from Baltimore and DC but wouldn't say much else about their job or why they were moving here. "Ah, you going to work for No Such Agency. That means you probably want a place in Columbia." So even when it was still technically secret, people knew about it and where it was. Granted it did help that my friend worked at a materials research lab that had classified contracts with the agency.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Errr...

          > a good place to live that was equidistant from Baltimore and DC

          Ellicott City - you're welcome

        2. Wzrd1

          Re: Errr...

          The last time I looked, employees were still discouraged from admitting that they worked for the NSA.

          With pressure, they were encouraged to say that they worked for the DoD. With a lot of questioning, rather than raise suspicions, they could admit to working for the NSA.

          For the handful I had reveal their affiliation, I simply remarked to the agency affiliation, "Ah, so most of your work is incredibly boring and extremely rarely interesting."

          To which I got a nod, smile and appreciating the sensitivity of their agency.

      3. Wzrd1

        Re: Errr...

        I remember back when they were called "No Such Agency" and quite proud to remain rather obscure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well done.....

      "...no such thing as bad publicity"

      I think the kind of 'death of a thousand cuts' they've just had 10 months of might well qualify as bad.

  3. Graeme5

    Dohh

    Tip, when making fun of how "lame" a simple a puzzle is, try to get the answer right. (two words missing and one letter extra)!!!

    Reg Article:

    “want to know what it takes to work at nsa? check back each monday as we explore careers essential to protecting your nation.”

    Actual:

    “want to know what it takes to work at nsa? check back each monday in may as we explore careers essential to protecting our nation.”

    1. JimBob01

      Re: Dohh

      "Tip, when making fun of how "lame" a simple a puzzle is, try to get the answer right. "

      Or maybe correctly identify the cipher type? The Romans used various shift ciphers whereas this message appears to have been encrypted by general simple substitution.

  4. Rich 11 Silver badge

    “want to know what it takes to work at nsa? check back each monday as we explore careers essential to protecting your nation.”

    So they're happy for foreign nationals to apply? Best not let the local security service find out.

    Anyway, maybe that's not the sort of protection we want from them.

    1. Graeme5

      the "y" is in error, the nsa tweet said "our nation", el reg didn't check the translation apparently!

      1. ukgnome
        Big Brother

        It was deliberate

        El Reg doesn't want to work for the secret squirrels.....

        *at least that's what they want you to think!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It was deliberate

          but the secret squirrels know where all the hidden nuts are!

    2. Wzrd1

      "So they're happy for foreign nationals to apply?"

      You'd be surprised.

      I'll just suggest that the investigation is exhaustive and far beyond intrusive.

  5. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    They have already selected who they want

    In fact, they are incubating in the Neo-Pavlovian conditioning rooms right now.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what it takes?

      "Low morals. Gentlemen don't read other people's mail."

      Nah, that only applied back when they were the Black Chamber. Now they're more like the Star Chamber.

    2. Oninoshiko

      Re: what it takes?

      Low morals. Gentlemen don't read other people's mail.

      I sometimes wonder if there are any left.

    3. Charles Manning

      Are you a cad, or perhaps a bounder? Can you bowl a googlie?

      Drop by for tea and a bikkie at CSHQ.

    4. Wzrd1

      Re: what it takes?

      "Low morals. Gentlemen don't read other people's mail."

      In that case, the UK had the lowest of morals and ungentlemanly behavior (OK, for you Brits, behaviour) in WWII.

      It was quite routine and intrusive.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know who is not protecting your nation? The NSA.

    Unless of course your nation is one that indiscriminately spies on you and your fellow citizens in case you are trouble later. You know. Like the Stasi did.

    1. Wzrd1

      "You know who is not protecting your nation? The NSA."

      First, the NSA is part of the US DoD. As such, they follow orders given by their lawful superiors.

      Second, go tell that to two of my friends and one cousin who died in the WTC on 9-11.

      You'll need a shovel and your pleas will fall upon literally dead ears for one, for the rest, upon an empty grave.

      So, with no due respect, sod off. You have absolutely no clue as to what are real risks in this world.

      I happen to know of those risks from first hand experience.

      Now, if you want to debate the finer details of what is and is not acceptable, do learn those risks firsthand yourself and we can have an intelligent conversation.

      Assuming you don't end up with an RPG removing a sizable part of your anatomy first.

      1. JeffUK

        Unless I'm sorely mistaken, the NSA were operating in 2001, and quite evidently didn't succeed in protecting anyone from anything.

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    How to become at least a millionaire/billionaire/gazillionaire, overnight.

    So, we are contemplating and commenting on “want to know what it takes to work at nsa? check back each monday in may as we explore careers essential to protecting our nation.” which is something which all nations would have an interest in securing the brightest and the best to be on their side and therefore protecting your nation too.

    One cannot protect any kind of system, and nations are just big scale SCADA systems, unless one also knows how to successfully attack and destroy SCADA systems, and that be simply achieved with the sharing of sensitive proprietary intellectual property/disruptive and/or destructive smarter chatter, and that always has a monumental price put upon it, both from the one extreme side wanting the use of the IP to cause systems collapses and chaos and the other side paying a fortune to have chatter stop and certain information to remain secret and widely undisclosed and generally unavailable.

    Such is quite an embarrassment of great riches for that which and/or those who possess such a gift and store of dual/multi-use knowledge and the only essential thing for the likes of an NSA type organisation is to ensure that payment as is/may normally be required and dictated by sensitive proprietary intellectual property holders is always made and guaranteed secure, and that will be made very easy for national/international/internetional security services and virtual protection agencies, for they only need follow the simple instructions which smarter chatterers would provide them with in order to assist and protect them from the harm they might fear and recognise and be unable to resist and overcome.

    Such isn’t rocket science, it is just plain texted common sense.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: How to become at least a millionaire/billionaire/gazillionaire, overnight.

      "One cannot protect any kind of system..."

      As an information security professional, I disagree with you. Systems can be protected by isolation, disabling non-essential services, proper monitoring, proper security measures overall, protective technologies that are properly implemented and monitored and proper policies enforced.

      In every major breach, either policies were not adhered to or protective technologies and isolation of networks was not applied/monitored.

      A further case in point, name one classified US information network that was above FOUO that has been successfully breached and exfiltrated data.

      Name a NATO classified network that was successfully breached and exfiltrated data.

      Name any Russian classified network that was successfully breached and exfiltrated data.

      Name any PRC classified network that was successfully breached and exfiltrated data.

      No?

      Perhaps the The Bank of England?

      No?

  9. Sil

    The NSA didn't have a choice. Just imagine if it used a cipher only 0.000001% of the american population could decipher. It would make most people paranoid. Also it probably doesn't target cryptanalysts from Mossad or the federal security service with unlimited access to compute power.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first
      Joke

      "Just imagine if it used a cipher only 0.000001% of the American population could decipher"

      They probably did.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        "They probably did."

        You mean it was ROT13 all along?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > a bright spark in the agency's social media team could have a longer-term plan to generate ongoing interest in the game, by using a more modern and sophisticated cipher on each round.

    The problem is that it's 50 / 50 whether this is a job advert or a honey trap...

  11. hardboiledphil
    Alert

    You never use your best encryption for medial tasks - did none of you watch Mercury Rising? Some 5 year old kid will crack it and it's downhill from there.

  12. Peter Simpson 1
    Happy

    Ob:

    "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

    1. NoneSuch

      Re: Ob:

      Thumb up for very apt reference Peter Simpson 1.

      As for the article, this is what the US Gov spends the Yanks tax dollars on. It's no wonder they are 17.5 Trillion dollars in debt.

      http://www.usdebtclock.org/

      1. whateva

        Re: Ob:

        >this is what the US Gov spends the Yanks tax dollars on. It's no wonder they are 17.5 Trillion dollars in debt.

        Yeah, it's insane how much Twitter charges per tweet now.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Eddy Ito
    Black Helicopters

    The funny part is that if you tried sending twaddle like that, you know the NSA would be spending lots of money to crack it. It should be simple similar cypher with an innocuous message like "pick up milk on your way home" with lots of random errors so it decrypts almost but is possibly 'wrong'. Have someone reply with something like every the third word spoken by Polonius in Act 2 Scene 1 of Hamlet. Repeat as desired but always on the same weekday within a 10 minute window. Keep an eye out for black helicopters, black SUVs with dark windows and tracking devices on your car. First person who gets them to knock on the door wins an all expense paid trip to Cuba, indefinitely.

    1. Wzrd1

      "Keep an eye out for black helicopters, black SUVs with dark windows and tracking devices on your car."

      Funny, I've posted encrypted messages and routinely send encrypted e-mails to my wife and some friends.

      The only helicopters I see are either news, cargo service and the occasional OD green ones being built down the road from me.

      No black SUV's with dark windows.

      As for tracking devices on my car, they'd get bored to death.

  15. DropBear

    What, they got tired of the Cicada theme...?

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