Code On Coin Cracked By 14 Year Old!
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 04 September 2022

A 14-year-old boy was the first to crack four levels of encryption in code imprinted on a commemorative coin released by the Australian Signals Directorate, the country's foreign intelligence cybersecurity agency. Decryption took him just over an hour.

The specialty coin, which hasn't gone into circulation in Australia but is available to purchase from the Royal Australian Mint in a limited edition of 50,000, marks the 75th anniversary of the Australian Signals Directorate.  


The 75th Anniversary Commemorative Coin web page states:

The 50 cent coin marks 75 years of ASD, reflecting on our mission defending Australia from global threats. It commemorates our historical roots in World War II, harnessing and mastering technology to reveal foreign secrets and protect Australia’s own.

According to Rachel Noble, the ASD's Director General, the coin celebrates the work of the agency's members and the evolution of code-breaking:

"Back in World War II, our people, military and civilian, and mostly women … used pencil and paper to decode Japanese military codes, and then re-encode them to send them out to the allies to let them know where Japanese war fighters were. We have used that part of our history in different layers, which represent the progress of encryption and technology through our 75 years."

Custom commemorative coins are an excellent way to honor achievments or mark special events, but this one is special. Both sides of the 50-cent commemorative coin contains clues to encrypted messages. A hidden message will be revealed once each layer of code has been cracked and all that is needed is a pen, paper, Wikipedia and brainpower.

Government intelligence agencies have a tradition of using cryptographic challenges for the purposes of recruitment. Last month the NSA launched the 2022 edition of its annual Codebreaker Challenge, targeted at students in academic institutions in the US and see Can You Solve GCHQ Xmas Puzzle? for a British example. 

So when the Australian Signals Directorate launched the  coin  on September 1st, Rachel Noble noted that if someone cracked all four layers of the code:

"maybe they'll apply for a job."

The following day Noble announced in a speech:

"And believe it or not, a boy, 14 years old in Tasmania, was the first person in just over an hour to get all four layers right. Just unbelievable. Can you imagine being his mum? So we're hoping to meet him soon ... to recruit him."

She also divulged that there's a secret fifth level of encryption on the coin which no one had yet broken. The  website states that the coded messages will be revealed at the end of September.


ASD75 coinblue



More Information

75th Anniversary Commemorative Coin web page

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Last Updated ( Friday, 20 October 2023 )