[FOUNTAIN]Enigmas eventually failEighty years ago a German technician invented an encryption device called "enigma." It looked like an ordinary typewriter (You do remember typewriters?) The enigma machine gives a mechanized way of performing alphabetic substitution for encryption. During World War II, Germany seamlessly encoded all military orders with the enigma. Allied forces could not decipher the coded messages even when they possessed the cryptograms. It seemed impossible to decode them because there were too many variations.
The United Kingdom formed a group dedicated to decoding German messages. More than 1,000 scientists joined the mission, finally devising a decoding device in 1943, which sped the end of the war.
All encoding systems eventually will be cracked. This is the common belief in the security industry, just as new resistant bacteria appears whenever a new antibiotic is invented. A few years after Bill Gates boasted of the safety of Microsoft products, security systems for e-mail were compromised. The security systems of mobile phones are also being threatened.
Embossed credit cards were introduced in the 1950s. The cards were easily forged and settlement was cumbersome. Therefore, magnetic cards appeared that contained more information in 12 millimeter (0.5 inch) -wide magnetic stripes. At first, it seemed impossible to forge or duplicate magnetic cards because the cards have complicated security. But before very long the security of magnetic cards was hacked. A simple card reader made it possible to duplicate the information contained in the magnetic stripe.
Starting at the end of the 1980s, European countries and the United States began replacing magnetic cards with cards that contained a built-in computer chip. The credit card industry maintains that these cards are not easily copied because you need a super computer to make a replica. But this does not mean people will not try.
Jitters spread through Korea after reports that magnetic debit cards of four banks had been copied. Card duplication became a problem seven years ago. But financial agencies have not upgraded security for magnetic cards for more than a decade, let alone introducing cards with a computer chip. There are two iron rules in the security industry: Doze off and you will be cracked. And there is no eternal enigma.
by Lee Kyu-youn
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.