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22 August 1997
Source: US National Finance Newspaper, August 22, 1997

Hackers' Paradise: Get Wealthy Legally By Cracking a Code

Crypto-Logic Offers to Pay $1 Million to the Breaker Of Encryption for E-Mail

By Rodney Ho

A start-up company would like you to hack your way to $1 million.

Crypto-Logic Corp. of Austin, Texas, claims to have created an encryption system for electronic mail so foolproof that it can't be broken. If someone can figure out a special encrypted e-mail message within a year, the company says it will pay a reward of $1 million.

But wait. The technology Crypto-Logic is using for the contest hasn't exactly been foolproof. The three computers needed to create the contest's Web site unexpectedly scrambled data in the site last week, said David Neeley, vice president and chief operating officer.

The breakdown forced him to backtrack from last week's announcement that the contest would begin last Friday. Instead, he spent several days attempting to fix the computers, but to no avail. On Monday, he had to get replacement computers. "I've got thousands of dollars worth of machinery that's not worth blowing up," he grouses. But he adds, "I regard this as my screw-up. In this world, there are no excuses." He finally got the contest running Wednesday, at

On the bright side, cryptologists agree that the decades-old encryption method that Crypto-Logic is claiming to use -- called a "one-time pad" -- is theoretically unbreakable. Each "pad" has a set of uniquely random digital symbols that are coded to the actual message. The recipient uses the same symbols to decrypt the message. The pads are used only once.

To limit the possibility of leaks, Crypto-Logic Chairman Stan Spence is the only person who knows the message that was encrypted. The solution is kept in a NationsBank vault in Austin, Mr. Spence says. In addition, Mr. Neeley says the $1 million is backed by an insurance company he won't name.

Several other companies have held similar contests, typically offering more modest sums.

Jim Bidzos, president of RSA Data Security Inc. in Redwood City, Calif., says his company frequently holds break-the- code contests to test how tough certain encryption systems are. But he and other security experts are skeptical of Crypto-Logic's assertions. "Anyone who says their system is bulletproof is either a liar or stupid," says Winn Schwartau, a Largo, Fla., security expert.

Mr. Neeley admits his integrity is on the line. "If I'm wrong," he notes, "we're out of business."


The Million Dollar Challenge

Ultimate Privacy is serious cryptography. On the Links page we have links to other Internet sites that discuss One-Time Pad cryptography and why it is unbreakable when properly implemented.

Nevertheless, should you wish to try, the first person to be able to discern the original message within a year (following the simple requirements of the Challenge) will actually receive the million dollar prize as specified in the Rules page. The prize is backed by the full faith and credit of Crypto-Logic Corporation and its insurors.

You might be interested in to know how the Challenge was done. We used a clean, non-network-connected computer. After installing Ultimate Privacy, one person alone entered the Challenge message and encrypted it. After making a copy of the encrypted message, we removed the hard disk from the computer nad it was immediately transported to a vault for a year.

Therefore, the original message is not known by Crypto-Logic Corporation staff (other than the first few characters for screening purposes), nor are there any clues to the original message on any media in our offices.

The Rules

Following are the rules of the Ultimate Privacy Million Dollar Challenge. To be eligible to win, you must abide by all applicable rules as set out here.

The Challenge is open to any individual, agency, corporation, or other private or governmental entity that cares to enter. Each entry must be made by one responsible individual who posseses a valid, Internet accessible e-mail address.

Each person or entity may only submit one entry per calendar month during the pendancy of the challenge.

Each entrant must be prepared to divulge the method of decryption used for the entry upon request of an authorized officer or agent of Crypto-Logic Corporation.

Each entry will be acknowledged via e-mail message containing the date and time the submission was received, a registration control number, and a copy of the submitted message.

The Challenge shall be in effect from noon (CDT) August 20, 1997 until noon (CDT) August 19, 1998, at which time the original plaintext message shall be publicly posted.

Only one prize will be granted should there be a winner. In the event the encrypted messages is successfully rendered into plain text, the first to do so as determined by the first to submit the solution shall be the winner of the entire million dollars. In the event the prize is won, the prize money shall be paid to the original submittor or to his/her designee.

The original message is in plain, English text. It contains no control or otherwise obscure characters. It was encrypted using a standard implementation of Ultimate Privacy e-mail encryption.

Entrants are not required to purchase anything. For those eligible to purchase Ultimate Privacy, the program may be used in the decryption attempt. Sorry, but export restrictions prohibit the sale of Ultimate Privacy to anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or a citizen of Canada, or of the export of the program or its components to any country but the U.S. or Canada.

Should there be confusion regarding these rules, or should legal requirements require us to change them, Crypto-Logic Corporation reserves the right to make alterations for clarity and legal compliance.

Crypto-Logic Corporation shall not be liable for any other guarantee or warranty, express or implied, regarding use of its encryption technology, beyond the offering of the Challenge amount under these terms and conditions. This is because we cannot be responsible for the use or misuse of our product by our customers.

That’s it. Simple, isn’t it? Should you decide to enter, you will probably learn more about encryption than you ever thought possible. And, the more you know about computer security and encryption, the more you will appreciate Ultimate Privacy. Good luck.

The Message

Below you will find the encrypted Challenge message. As stated before, it is in plain English text. There are no control characters, special symbols requiring anything but the standard keyboard to enter (no Alt+number characters). Ultimate Privacy contains its own compression routine to make maximum use of the keypad file. Therefore, the original message may be of differing length than the encrypted message below.

Good luck in your efforts to decrypt our message. The original will be posted on August 19, 1997 provided there are no valid decryptions prior to that time.

----- UP -----??daU?????dr1wEFssYNOgvLDiCyZ296C51VPUo9Mi0BIHMnZTSveVPXb?02G 47ECGIA2UoZgy0Kl!?91zW9SqF05kDlR!fYDPbbP9hH8J0CDLDrFfO3N7CxVur?QJ o22aPgHyUmFpdbg7G!iQSZaHAOELipdS?m7KzGmxylN!kd2otaKISSRilW5HV00221 !jRTYbYOsb9fFpzbxRGeUjvozbviGE00rO?UdhzQ04aPV9ZoB0eJl0o6gA3YJuivVPPyr V6jF3dYhDEba9o4oO1oDaGxRoKEhNEPtGm4UxWxCriUcUEsJRfb7bIXhdwMcW5g CHd7ezbbXO4KD3IWPa67EgoMg42aiRiVtIuhu!So!dRW8lMVOhHx68Co?TPAm7dq dGiGcv1lVheiwX3fpxxy3rMIMpEV-q3s9OF----- End -----

Enter the contest:

JY provided entry data of name, e-mail address and message, then received the following:

Contest Entry

Name  John Young
Message  Thanks for a great contest. Expect to earn fee quickly. And pray you are ready to send it encrypted to my private offshore account. Await your challenge of the crypto export laws.

Thank you for your time!
Your Contest Entry ID is 872261635-2718.