Doofioso

From Discovery News comes a report that Bernardo Provenzano, the recently-arrested “Boss of Bosses” of the Sicilian Mafia, was finally caught because he relied on an encryption system that consisted of ….. [cue the opening notes of The Godfather theme song] ….. adding 3 to the numerical value of each letter. Apparently this has really been a bad week for evil masterminds in Italy.

22 Responses to “Doofioso”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Seems secure to me…

  2. Anonymous Says:

    His defense?

    The probability of him using such an obvious cipher is so low, that the use of that code to read the “messages” is unlikely to give the true content of the messages.

  3. Peter Love Says:

    Dear Scott,

    This is at least historically consistent – he was using the Caesar Cipher (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesar_cipher).

    HW WX EUXWH?

    Peter

  4. Scott Says:

    A section, a cipher, a salad… that Caesar was quite a guy.

  5. Scott Says:

    Now that I think about it, I hope La Cosa Nostra doesn’t after me for this post. Maybe I should’ve encrypted it using the letter values +5…

  6. Anonymous Says:

    As an Italian regular reader of your nice Blog, I am undecided between being honored for this post entirely about Italy, and being ashamed for the two gruesome (on different levels, of course) Italian people that you mention.

    Anyway, about your latest comment: one usually says “Cosa Nostra”, without preceding article.

  7. Scott Says:

    Anyway, about your latest comment: one usually says “Cosa Nostra”, without preceding article.

    Thanks, Italian regular reader! And don’t worry about your national cryptographic honor — this guy evens it out.

    PS. doesn’t after me –> doesn’t come after me

  8. Cheshire Cat Says:

    “A section, a cipher, a salad…”

    Don’t forget the wife.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    A section, a cipher, a salad… a Lasarehpicanoitcesa!

  10. Etouq Says:

    Anon, you mean ‘Da’, Lasarehpicanoitcesa.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    So if the code was so simple, how come it took them 43 years to catch the guy? :)

  12. Scott Says:

    So if the code was so simple, how come it took them 43 years to catch the guy? :)

    For the first couple decades the police tried subtracting 1 from each letter value. Then, in the mid-1980’s, they started subtracting 2. Then finally it hit them…

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Makes you wonder who the real doofuses are in this story, doesn’t it…

  14. Anonymous Says:

    For the first couple decades the police tried subtracting 1 from each letter value. Then, in the mid-1980’s, they started subtracting 2. Then finally it hit them…

    actually, the people in charge of -3 were bribed by the mafia, and this wasn’t realized until “project -29″ got funding three years ago.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    What would you suggest could have been used as an adequatly secure encryption method?

  16. Anonymous Says:

    What would you suggest could have been used as an adequatly secure encryption method?

    Threaten to break the kneecaps of anybody who figured out the scheme, of course.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks, Italian regular reader! And don’t worry about your national cryptographic honor — this guy evens it out.

    You forgot this guy, to whom cryptographers owe an even bigger debt.

  18. Helger Says:

    Don’t forget Fiat, Impagliazzo, Gennaro and others :-)

  19. serafino Says:

    Naaa. Sicilians are the smartest people in Italy. You can, perhaps, realize the simple code he used
    (i.e. “a 35″ could mean “a Mario”) but the content of the message would be ‘contextual’ (only who gets the message knows its actual meaning).

  20. secret milkshake Says:

    what if the same ciphertext can mean: “make me a big meat lasagna” or “whack this guy” or “bring friends together to celebrate Easter”. I hope these contextual mistakes are infrequent

  21. Scott Says:

    What would you suggest could have been used as an adequatly secure encryption method?

    Threaten to break the kneecaps of anybody who figured out the scheme, of course.

    That or a one-time pad. (RSA would be a bit time-consuming to implement by hand, and the Mafia doesn’t need public-key anyway.)

  22. serafino Says:

    Secret Milkshake:
    What if the same ciphertext can mean: “make me a big meat lasagna” or “whack this guy” or “bring friends together to celebrate Easter”? I hope these contextual mistakes are infrequent.

    Perhaps they are not so infrequent. This is also the reason why those messages (“i pizzini”, little pieces of paper) were written. In the era of the wireless web, written pieces of paper appeared (to the Mafia boss) to be safer than phone calls or emails.
    s.