#2 Secret Messages Disclosed

Do you want to send messages so that only friends who have the right key can understand? Take your secret message game to a whole new level! Join us in decoding some fun riddles and puzzles using Caesar and Vigenère Ciphers.
puzzle

When things go wrong, what can you always count on?

BRXU WHQ ILQJHUV

Can you not understand the solution to the puzzle? What if we tell you that the shift is 3? What if we tell you A=D? Don’t worry! We are here to help you learn how to decode secret messages!

hello smart parents

BEFORE WE BEGIN!

If you are not familiar with the activities, please take the time to review the instructions for an optimal learning experience:

hello smart cookies!

LET’S START OUR ADVENTURE?!
In Activity #1: The Language of Computers we learnt all about Binary Numbers and ASCII encoding so we could complete our mission to communicate with an old computer. Dottie and Zac were translating random usernames to binary to access the computer.
Mission #2
Decode secret messages!

Your second mission is to decode secret messages from the computer!

story

Dottie: Hey Zac, any luck with your username guesses? 

Zac: Not really, all my SMART friends sent their names in binary for me to try, but nothing really worked. I am just about to enter the last one… 

Dottie: Cool, hopefully it works! But indeed it’s very hard to unlock a computer by simply guessing different usernames…

Zac: It looks like it didn’t. Wait, this message is new! It says “You reached one hundred unsuccessful tries! Answer security question instead”. 

Dottie: Great, that should help, lets just click it to see what it is… 

Zac: What on Earth is this? Or should I say.. what unearthly language is this? 

🤖 Biibibiibibiibi

“cngz oy znk gtyckx zu rolk znk atobkxyk gtj kbkxeznotm?”

Dottie: It looks very strange indeed, too strange to be an actual language. I would say it looks like the text is encoded or encrypted. We need a key to decode it, but we were not given any… 

Zac: Wow, encoded text, that is interesting!!! There must be a big secret behind this computer! I suppose we could try breaking the code as we don’t have a key. Could you help me with that?

Dottie: Well, I can try. there are different types of encoding, some are simple to break because they use simple rules for encoding, while others are very difficult because they use complex rules.

Zac: Well, I guess we can start with the simplest until we break it?!

Dottie: Sure, that sounds like a good plan. Caesar Cipher is the simplest encoding method, so first we need to understand how to encode and decode messages with Caesar Cipher. Then, we can work out how to break it. 

TASK #1

caesar cipher

You will master encoding and decoding messages using Ceasar Cipher.

We searched the web and found this great video featuring Izzy and Kaiden from DreamWorksTV! They did a great job explaining how to make and use a Caesar Cipher Wheel to encode and decode messages. Let’s join them!

How cool is that?! Let’s make our own Caesar Cipher Wheel?! In the video Kaiden mentions that their Cipher Wheel has 24 spaces, we prepared one with 26 because that will allow us to use it later on this activity too.

activity sheet

You should refer to the Activity sheet now!

Make sure to complete the Activity Sheet Page 1 and 2 before continuing. It includes a template for building your own Caesar Cipher Wheel, messages to encode and really funny riddles to decode.

Hint! If you don’t have a printer at home, you can easily recreate the Caesar Cipher Wheel by opening the Activity Sheet on your laptop/tablet and placing a sheet of paper over the screen. It should be easy to see the lines through the paper, so you can use them as guide lines. Use a ruler to draw the lines and a compass for the circles.

Hint! Alternatively, you could opt for using an online version of the cipher wheel, however we strongly recommend that you build one yourself. 

Nice work! Well done in decoding the riddle from the beginning of this post!

Now that you are an expert on Caesar Cipher, you can use the application bellow to automatically encrypt messages to send your friends or decode messages that you got from them!

Smart Edu

🤖 Biibibiibibiibi, hey friend, I see you have a message. Did you receive it or do you want send it to a friend?

Well done, now you know how to decode messages with a key! But what if you don’t have a key and want to break the code? Let’s learn how to do that!
TASK #2

breaking caesar ciphers

You will learn about how to use frequency analysis and cribs to break codes.

First and foremost, you need to promise us that you will only use your knowledge for the benefit of human kind! 

🕸️🦸‍♂️  “With great power comes great responsibility” 😉


Now, let’s get started! In this video, Michael from SciShow explains how to break Caesar Cipher codes based on frequent letters and words in English!

While it is fun learn how to break codes, it is also a concern, as our messages sent with this type of code may not be safe… Anyway, let’s see if we can break secret encoded message from the computer?

activity sheet

You should refer to the Activity sheet now!

Make sure to complete Activity Sheet Page 3 where you will find some fun codes to break as well as the one given by the computer! 

Key Point

It is very easy to encrypt messages using a Caesar Cipher Wheel, but it is equally easy to breakable them. 

story

Dottie: Did you manage to break the code yet?!

Zac: Yeah, I used the Caesar Cipher Wheel to crack the code. It turns out the shift was 6, so it didn’t take me long to get it. 

Dottie: That is great, well done Zac! What does it say?

Zac: That is a new problem… It reads “What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?”. How am I meant to know that?!

Dottie: Wait, that sounds familiar to me… You should Google it, translate the answer to binary and try it!

Zac: Wow, I can’t believe that the answer to such a complex question is actually so simple! You should also google it my SMART friends, let’s see if you get it right?!

🤖Biibibiibibiibi, what is the answer to life the universe and everything?

Dottie: That’s wonderful, well done Zac! We are a step closer to unveiling some secrets!!!

Zac: Yeah, this is actually so cool, I must read that book sometime. It would come in handy when I go hitchhiking in the Galaxy! 

Dottie: Sure it will. Someone important once said, all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. 

Zac: Mom, look, the computer is displaying some encoded text again!

🤖 Biibibiibibiibi

“vnm tbopv umi ywct wgkx amxvl rhuuc dgcna mkxfi smzq umi yqdg jgm lmdge”

Dottie: That is cool, you can try using the Caesar Cipher Wheel again to decode it!

Zac: Okie Dokie, I will try that now!

Sometime later… 

Zac: I went around the wheel and none of the combinations worked… I remember you mentioned some codes are more difficult to break because they use more complex rules, I guess this could be the case ?

Dottie: Yeah, that is very likely. We could try decoding using Vigenère Cipher, however we will need a keyword for that! 

Zac: Well, I guess we don’t have a choice. Hopefully we will get to decode it!

TASK #3

Vigenère cipher

You will master a more complex type of encryption using a Vigenère Square.

Let’s continue playing the video to learn how Vigenère Cipher works. 

That is a much more solid way of encoding a message. You might play the video again to really get it. Let’s see how that would work in practice!

activity sheet

Go to Activity Sheet Page 5 you can practice your decryption skill with some fun riddles on Zac’s favourite subject!

P.S. We had an error in the first version of our Vigenère Square, you should have received version two the update email. In the correct version, the first row looks exactly like the top row! We apologize for the inconvenience and thank your valuable feedback.

Key Point

Data encryption is widely used to protect important information, such as bank card transactions. However, it is very hard to create unbreakable codes. Brute force methods are much more practical nowadays than in the past because computers are very fast and powerful.

story

Zac: Well, now I know how to use a Vigenère Square plus a keyword to encrypt and decrypt messages. But it sounds like cracking a message encrypted with Vigenère Cipher is much harder!

Dottie: Yeah, It is especially harder in our case because the message we got is very short. So, it will be very hard for us to tell any patterns in it… if there is any!

Zac: Maybe we could guess a few keywords?! We should probably check “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” for some inspiration…

Dottie: That is a great idea Zac! 

a while later…

Zac: Mom do you want to check this?! After some unsuccessful attempts, I tried the computer’s name as the  keyword. At first, I thought it worked, but the decrypted message looks very strange do you want to double check?  

Dottie: Yeah, your work is perfect, well done! But, the message makes no sense whatsoever!

activity sheet

Finally, go to the Activity Sheet and pick up from where you left off on Page 5. Google the computer’s name and use it as a keyword. 

What does the message say? Any ideas what it means? Comment below and share the answer on Social Media, maybe one of your friends might know what it is?

Smart Edu

learn more about cryptography!

Let’s just finish watching Michael’s video. It has some really cool information! 

Well done in learning so much about Cryptography – the science of Making and breaking codes!  We really hope you enjoy it! 

activity sheet

Uff! You learnt an awful lot today! We prepared a bullet point summary of the video and a fun crosswords to test your expertise on Cryptography!

P.S. We are working on updating the crosswords, as there are a few errors in it. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your feedback. 

WELL DONE!!!

👏 Great work breaking all these encrypted messages 👏

🙏 Support us by letting your friends know about SMART Edu Challenge using the buttons below! 

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👇 Comment below what you think the message means!!! 🤔

Stay tuned for

Activity #3: Navigating the Word

What does the message from the mysterious computer mean? All we can say is that we are about to embark on a journey!

8 thoughts on “#2 Secret Messages Disclosed”

    1. Great guess!!! We are delighted that you tried the activity and hope you have enjoyed it! We look forward to having you back here for Activity #3!

    1. That is wonderful Rosa, we are delighted to know Amon and Samantha are enjoying the activities. We love seeing their happy faces on Twitter!

  1. I think this is it? (Caoimhe) 1000011 1100001 1101111 1101001 1101101 1101000 1100101

    Wonderful activity! I really enjoyed it – can’t wait for more! 🙂

    1. Wonderful, you even got the capital C right, great work Caoimhe! We look forward to seeing what you think of the next activities 🙂

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