Where Did You Learn?

Discussion in 'General' started by Systole, Jun 1, 2015.

  1. Systole

    Systole Active Agent

    I couldn't really find a general questions thread so I'm hoping this is an appropriate place to put my question.

    As someone new to ARG's and puzzles (but already enjoying both immensely) I'm constantly amazed at how this community decrypts and investigates. Almost constantly these two particular questions are running through my head. "Where did they learn that cipher?" or "How did they recognize that hexadecimal needed to be converted to base64?". So I thought I would pose them to the community. Where did you acquire your knowledge of puzzles and cryptography and how do you identify/differentiate between number sequences and different kinds of codes?
    3 people like this.
  2. Greenstarfanatic

    Greenstarfanatic Senior Agent

    Personally, I learned what little I know from other riddles, like Clever Waste of Time and Notpr0n. The former more so, because it was kind of a gradual shift. It's basically just a case of learning from experience for the most part. As for differentiation, uh...yeah I'm not so good on that front. Usually what works is recognizing what things aren't actually a part of some codes, like basic alphanumeric codes only go up to 26, but Ascii goes much further. The former is also a great thing to do for someone new to the genre, so I recommend you check it out.
    2 people like this.
  3. Maurna

    Maurna Gold Member

    I was a late addition to the pre-release ARG scene for The Secret World. I spent a few weeks reading everything they'd done and then got involved, most in a support role, during the next few ARGS. If you want practice, there are entire forums dedicated to ARGs. I actually got quite a bit of practice on one created in a fan-ARG thread. He'd placed a series of alphanumeric lines on a painting, some of the strings were more than 50 characters long. Took us weeks to figure out that he'd also replaced a head with someone else's, tineye had recognized the painting so we didn't think anything of it.
    2 people like this.
  4. Eternimus

    Eternimus Gold Member

    Cryptology in general is a hobby for me. It has been since I was a child. I enjoy it so much, I use it in my every day life.

    For example, I set up a "National Treasure" birthday for my sister when she turned 18. It cost me personally a bit of money and weeks of preparation. I used 10 different types of ciphers for her to get all her gifts, and set agents in places, prepaid for things, etc. I had people hand deliver her the next clue, her birthday cake I hand made and wrote an ADFGVX cipher on her cake and ice cream buckets (Happy and Birthday were the keys) and started it off by having a "mailman" deliver her an envelope with an intro to cryptology book, grille cipher grid (that I designed off of the sample page in said book) and a typed note that merely stated "good luck".

    I actually got started in elementary school. The fourth graders had a calendar with puzzles on it for each day, and if you solved it you got treats. I was only in second grade and we were very poor, so candy and soda was a very rare luxury. I made every effort to solve every one and I was often among the first. But then the 4th grade ones became too easy. So I started looking for more. Higher grade level puzzles. Then when I was in 4th grade the teacher that had been putting these puzzle calendars up introduced me to Cryptograms. I've been at it ever since.
    6 people like this.
  5. Santiak

    Santiak MIA

    For me, it's mostly been a process of trial-and-error.
    You encounter one cipher - hopefully one of the more basic ones that either have a tool for them, and/or rather distinct, such as a ROT or binary encryption, and then another cipher, and another, and so on.
    Slowly the repertoire of ciphers you can recognize (or at the least have encountered before) grows, and that in turn helps you in identifying novel ciphers, if only arbitrarily, because that store of ciphers you are familiar with, also tells you something about the various systems that ciphers can use - even if the mode with which they are produced are unfamiliar to you.
    In other words, the more ciphers you encounter, the more the systems of ciphers "pop" out at you when you encounter a new one - for example, spacing can be indicative that it's a substitution cipher where a keyword isn't necessarily needed, wheres a solid line of enciphered text is more likely to necessitate a keyword in order to decrypt.
    Of course, I'm only talking from the basis of experience, so all of the above might be bullpwop, but then it'll just be another piece of information to add to the store ;)

    Or to put it differently, what I know of ciphers, is predominantly from what I've learnt while taking part in ARGs (which only include the TSW ARGs and now TBW) :)
    3 people like this.
  6. Rohva

    Rohva Gold Member

    For my job, I spend a fair amount of time programming things that require encoding characters and numbers. It is nothing fancy, just simple translation based on whatever format I am reading from or writing to. Any programmer would regard it as fairly simple coding, but this has trained me over time to recognize certain patterns almost without thinking. This is not the case with all such encoding schemes, just the ones I have had cause to become familiar with.

    I have also attended some online crypto courses and presentations. Agent Bink mentioned one here: http://forums.blackwatchmen.com/index.php?threads/cryptography-class-starts-now.454/

    I think it is also worth pointing out that what we are primarily doing as TBW agents is cryptanalysis (breaking someone else's crypto) not cryptography (making or implementing our own crypto) and they have different skill sets. Knowledge of crypto definitely helps cryptanalysis, but the general ability to discern patterns, especially completely new ones, is the key. I see building up a library of previously encountered patterns in our head along the way as just an incidental effect.

    What I know now that is of most value I learned by actually working puzzles, not by being taught how to work puzzles or conceal messages or encode things. Experience is the best teacher in this case. The best lessons were hard won insights that taught me a different way to think about something, what possibilities to consider that I did not know of before. It's like learning to fish on your own rather than being taught by someone else or simply being given a fish. People have mentioned notpron.com in this thread and others. That is a good place to teach yourself some fishing skills for those not already familiar with it. I think it has taught me as much as any other single place.
    3 people like this.
  7. Tyryt

    Tyryt Senior Agent

    The US Army taught me. Mostly anyway, there's been a lot of personal growth and learning too. Outside of the pure encryption parts, for myself it's a lot of intuitive leaps and having a fairly broad list of experiences and dabbling in a lot of different interests and obscure "worthless" trivia.
    3 people like this.
  8. Branwen

    Branwen Senior Agent

    As a random amateur I concur with all of the above--and just gleaned some good info myself. But I would also add a hearty pat on the back to you as well as all of the respondents above--because the beauty of this genre is enhanced by the rapport you build with your fellows. Good for you for the courage to simply ask, when many of us have lurked to learn--so as not to appear foolish or inept. You will find that even the most skilled of your fellow agents are more than willing to point a finger--and that makes it so much fun--to learn as you uncover and discover. And once again I find my heart warmed to see the responses to your question that are respectful of you and your quest and yearning to learn. But be warned, we tempt you into a heady brew of intrigue and paranoia--but we also have your back. You are not alone--when you feel most lost--you are very much NOT alone. I would add that I read a lot throughout the forums and somewhere, I've not found it again yet, someone compiled a site list of of crypto-tools. In the heat of the moment it is a lovely thing to be able to plug in a code you've been handed and the key such that you needn't hand de-cypher it (thought that can be fun). Hopefully someone here will post the link, else I'll dig it up when I'm not fogged up so much. I'm very much a remedial student of the crypto side--but I have hope for myself ;-) Good luck and have fun! (oh--and keep an eye out over your shoulder...)
    5 people like this.
  9. Ashielf

    Ashielf Senior Agent

    Here is the link: http://forums.blackwatchmen.com/index.php?threads/useful-resources-and-tools.32/
    I have nothing to add since I'm very dependent an all of you guys to give me hints. Yes, I've learned to see cyphers and decode them myself by now but I'm nowhere near as good as some other members around here.
    2 people like this.
  10. Systole

    Systole Active Agent

    I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to write a reply and help me on my quest to greatness. You have all been a great help.
    8 people like this.
  11. Greenhead

    Greenhead Senior Agent

    I'm a programmer. I can tell if a sequence of binary, hex or decimal numbers is an ASCII text. It's easy after a while. Real ciphers are where it's hard, of course.
  12. Ugly

    Ugly Senior Agent

    Similar to Greenhead, I develop embedded software and have recently had to focus more on security. So digging through a hex or binary file is a regular practice. Since starting TBW, I have picked up a bit on ciphers by reading up on any that show up, but I have a long way to go there!
  13. Khalm

    Khalm Gold Member

    On the fly as we go....
    2 people like this.
  14. nikel

    nikel Lab 1852 - Neurals

    Same as Khalm really. I started with ARGs before TSW was released. The first few were insanely difficult for me. We got a journal that was filled with information but the important part was in the margins were the names of queens, which we were supposed to use to set up an N Queens problem and use that to get an answer. Tons of extraneous information that appeared relevant and a twisted path to follow. This one was followed up by a puzzle where we had to some form of audio stenography that I don't remember exactly how it worked. Once HE took over the ARGs, they became more stylistically coherent, which allowed me to really learn the methods, since they built upon each other, for example, the use of decimal number stations on division-66.com evolving from mission to mission.

    My point is, you'll come across something you don't know how to do, like how to recognize important information, problem solve, analyze audio, decode a certain type of code. Some things you'll pick up right away, knowing from your background. Others you wont know how to do the first time/few times you encounter it. It's pretty easy to add decimal and hex to your toolbox once you've seen how they're formatted. Some things you will never be able to do. I am photoshop incapable. The best way to learn is to watch other agents, let them perform their specialties. Ask questions if you're confused (though in the heat of the moment, agents might not be able to explain the sequence,) and you'll pick up the skills you need.
    3 people like this.
  15. Daedalus

    Daedalus Division-79

    I learned entirely by watching people go here. The trick is really just to pay attention to detail, and never let a community puzzle go by without learning who solved it and how.
    6 people like this.
  16. Maurna

    Maurna Gold Member

    This is excellent advise.
  17. Obyrith

    Obyrith Senior Agent

    I started out playing the pre tsw arg with very little knowledge on codes so when one came up i was stumped so there was a lot of trial and error searching for different code formats
    eventually I would get the correct one and I'd note down what format goes with what type of code.
    I then joined a group who were also completing the arg and if one of us were stuck the others would provide not the answer but where to find information on how to solve it.
    So all in all I'd say if you get stuck never feel bad about asking people on the forums for help cooperation with others on a arg is an massive help ^_^
    3 people like this.

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