A tribute to Auguste Kerckhoffs

We all know the importance of requirement management of a cryptographic system, but I don’t know how to layout the superlatives, to describe my sensation, when I came across this article in the Sciences Militaires, written by Auguste Kerckhoffs, a Dutch linguist and cryptographer in January 1883!

Here are the principles that should apply to a crypto-system:
1. The system must be substantially, if not mathematically, undecipherable;
2. The system must not require secrecy and can be stolen by the enemy without causing trouble;
3. It must be easy to communicate and remember the keys without requiring written notes, it must also be easy to change or modify the keys with different participants;
4. The system ought to be compatible with telegraph communication;
5. The system must be portable, and its use must not require more than one person;
6. Finally, regarding the circumstances in which such system is applied, it must be easy to use and must neither require stress of mind nor the knowledge of a long series of rules.
(Acknowledgements: Frank Stajano for his scanner and OCR software. Bruno Liénard who help finishing the corrections on the second part. John Kane.)

You can read the french version here

Note: Cryptography or the art of figure was already used by the Chinese, Persians, Carthaginians, and was even taught in the ancient schools of tactics in Greece, and was used by the Roman generals.

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~ by petergullberg on January 19, 2009.

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