Security Market Segment LS
Friday, 09 July 2010 13:12

US Cyber Command's code has been cracked

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The newly formed United States Cyber Command might actually have an understanding of security, and a sense of humour as well.

Over the past few days, the Internet has been awash with reports of an intriguing secret code embedded in the logo of the United States Cyber Command.

The logo clearly shows a string of characters on the inner gold ring surrounding the usual eagle-based motif.

For those of poor eyesight, the characters are:

9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a

Let's apply some simple analysis before we reveal the secret.

Firstly, it's almost certainly a hexadecimal string - there are digits 0 - 9 and letters a - f only.  Breaking it into 2-byte pairs gives us:

9e c4 c1 29 49 a4 f3 14 74 f2 99 05 8c e2 b2 2a

An inspection of which suggests a very low likelihood of a simple character translation to plain text.

What else do we know?  There are 32 bytes in the string and this is a very common length for a hash value. 


For those unfamiliar, a 'hash' is a computed summary of a longer piece of text.  For instance, this entire article could be hashed to a simple 32-byte hash which can be used to guarantee that the text is unchanged as modifying a single character in the text would yield a totally different hash.

The article from The Age infers the solution, without actually revealing it, noting that it is connected with the organisation's mission statement: "USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries."

In fact, using a reverse hash calculator we can easily determine that indeed the code is the MD5 hash of the mission statement.

This all suggests a couple of things.  That the new Cyber Command might actually know a thing or two about encryption techniques and also that they seem to have a mild sense of humour.


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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