When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

19 April 2006

Bad crypto trips up Mafia boss

Bernardo Provenzano, the "boss of bosses" of the Sicilian Mafia, apparently "encrypted" key information in written messages using a cipher that anyone who does the Daily Cryptoquote in their hometown newspaper could break in about five minutes:
...Provenzano had been on the run for more than 40 years, many of them spent writing cryptograms on little pieces of paper, known in Sicilian dialect as pizzini.

The Italian police found about 350 pizzini in Provenzano's hideaway.

A few dozen of these notes contained requests to his family, such as having lasagne on Easter. All the others, featuring orders to his lieutenants, displayed numeric sequences that concealed the names of people...

"Looks like kindergarten cryptography to me. It will keep your kid sister out, but it won't keep the police out. But what do you expect from someone who is computer illiterate?" security guru Bruce Schneier, author of several books on cryptography, told Discovery News.

Under Provenzano's tenure, the Mafia didn't use computers, apparently.

Imagine the difficulty that Italian prosecutors would have now if someone had been hip enough to download a copy of GnuPG and use it properly.

Discovery Channel: Mafia Boss's Encrypted Messages Unraveled

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