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Lesson 3 - The Poem and PGP

Subj:  [SE2600-P] PhreakNIC Code Lab - Lesson 3 - The Poem and PGP
Date: 08/19/2000 3:46:23 PM Central Daylight Time

This is an ongoing series to dissect the PhreakNIC v3.0 code, which can be
seen at

Inward we go, deeper into the mind of JonnyX . . .

I can tell that some of you have already been putting up those Britney Spears
posters, since he's starting to babble about her.  And I'll bet he doesn't
even know it was us, heh heh heh.

<pulls out her laser pointer and shines its beam at the poem on the overhead

Okay, let's take another look at this:

  The earnes[t][se]crets sho(n)e.
  (O)ne hears sat[i]re.
  Ahem - r(e)ally rag Satan.
  (A)(T)M of Hel(l).
  Evil nos[e]energy.
  O, the (C)IA net lunacy.
  Obey luser ca[m].
  P[h]one far-fe[t]ched[r]oot text[.]
  A data-[l]in[k] g[r](u)mbles on the cloud(.)

If you can figure out *everything* that's in there, you'll be the first,
because I sure haven't done it yet.  Here are some things worth
trying/researching though:

(1) In the archives, in a thread about the PhreakNIC puzzle, JonnyX mentioned
being "in a state of awe" over the MIT Mystery Challenge:

Maybe there's a clue there about what to do with the poem?

(2) On that site, there's also a link to information about other puzzle
types.  For example, this intriguing information on "cryptic crossword"
clues, which bear some resemblance to the stuff in the poem:

(3) Maybe they're anagrams?  Like take a look at this line:

    "ATM of Hell"

  It could anagram to:

     "All of them."

But all of what?

(4) There sure are a lot of tech words in there:  ATM, root, phone, luser
cam, energy, data-link.  Is it describing something technical?  Or maybe the
lines are references to stories in the news at the time this was written?
<ponder>  Maybe there was a news headline page with 10 items on a certain
date, and those lines refer to 9 of them, and the 10th item has a PGP key?
Wasn't there something in the news about some super-computers cracking at
least one PGP key?  Could *that* be the one we need? Hmmm, time to go check
out the archives...  (and if you think *this* is obscure, go
check out those MIT puzzles)

(5) What about those letters in brackets and parentheses?

   In [], we've got: t se i e m h t r . l k r
   In (), we've got: n O e A T l C u .

Vigenere ciphers, anyone?

(6) Then of course there's Rattle's hint (or maybe non-hint) in the archives:

<< Just think of the '216' number and spirals, then it all becomes clear. >>

To which JonnyX replied:
Goddamnit, now I'm going to have to kill you. What a senseless waste of human
/fires up chainsaw

   (so *that's* why Rattle disappeared....)

(7) * click here to see this message

(8) At another point while beating my head against this part of the Code, I
looked at this line:

  Phone far-fetched root text.

Hmm, phone?  This *is* a 2600 puzzle...

  Phone xxx-xxxxxxx xxxx xxxx.

That sure does look like a phone number in there...  Is the clue something to
do with phreaking?  Maybe it's a phone number?  What's that 3-letter word in
the area-code section there?  "Far".  On a phone pad, that translates to 327.
Where's that an area code at?  It's not listed on some of the area code
lookup pages, but wait, here's one that says it's reserved?  The 555-1212
site says it's in Kentucky?  JonnyX is always talking about driving out to
Kentucky...  Hmmm....

For a bit there I thought I was onto something, and maybe the rest translated
to a phone number, and the other two groupings were a voice mailbox and
password.  But I called, and there wasn't any answer.  Oh well, it would've
been pretty cool for a phreaking puzzle though.  :)

Hint:  I know that at least *part* of the poem can be solved with at least
*one* of the above solutions (and maybe more than one).  :)

Next:  I'm going to skip some of the homework review (we'll go over it next
time) and move along to the PGP section.

BTW, if you don't have PGP software yet, go to the MIT site and download
some.  I've run through this part of the Code with both 2.6.2 and more recent
versions, so any of the different versions should work, just pick what you're
comfortable with, and make your own key pair for practice:

Okay, now let's do some formatting.

If you just copy/paste the first part that you rotated into PGP, it won't
parse.  You need to put it into the format it's expecting. One way to figure
this out is by PGP-encrypting your own message and then looking at it with
your text editor, and then trying to emulate how it looks.

To save some confusion though, His Holiness JonnyX was kind enough to
separate out the lines for us (which I was a little surprised he did, but
hey, maybe he wasn't feeling well or something), so just separate each
section within [] brackets to its own line:

[Version: 2.6.2]
[-----END PGP MESSAGE-----]
[ ]

PGP still isn't recognizing it though, so it needs a bit more.  If you've
looked at how a PGP message is normally formatted, you'll have noticed that
it doesn't normally have [] brackets, so strip all of those out:

Version: 2.6.2


NOW we've got something that PGP will at least sniff at, though it's still
whining that we don't have the right key.  So hmmm, where do we get a key?

- If we have the info, we could try making one (been studying your RSA manuals?)
- Or we could try and find one (maybe in the public key directories?).
- Or we could try and brute-force it (got a couple computers you don't want
to use for a few years?)

Since we want to solve this before the end of the century though, you can
safely assume that brute-forcing is not the answer.

So, do we need to find the necessary elements elsewhere in the PhreakNIC Code
and forge our own key?  Or do we need to follow clues to find one?  Well, I
guess we need to keep working on other parts of the Code, to see if they
mention anything about a key...

  - Read up a little more on PGP.  Surf the search engines, or maybe check
out this link for a quick overview:
  - Get that UUencoder/decoder handy. The one I used, I got from:
  - And keep working on that poem!

Elonka :)

"Seek first to understand, and then to be understood."  - Covey

"Seek first to understand, and then to manipulate."  - JonnyX

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