[ISN] Cracking code gives password for college place

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 11:19:46 PST

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    15:02 21 January 02 
    Will Knight
    A Canadian university has awarded a scholarship to the first
    prospective student who successfully cracked an encoded mathematics
    problem, posed by teachers in place of a conventional entrance exam.
    One hundred other students who also managed to decode and figure out
    the problem were offered a place on the computer science course at the
    The University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, issued the challenge
    to computer science and mathematics students in October 2001. The
    competition closes on 1 February 2002.
    Local college students between the age of 16 and 19 were encouraged to
    take part, but the competition also received significant international
    interest. About 16,000 visitors from numerous countries were recorded
    at the competition web site, where the encoded message can be found.
    Increasing popularity
    The challenge was to convert a mathematical problem into text from a
    confusing string of numbers. Then figure out the problem and email the
    answer to the university.
    Nigel Smart, a researcher at the University of Bristol, UK, says that
    cryptography is increasingly popular with undergraduates and lecturers
    because it combines pure mathematics with real-world computer science.
    "It is a really good way of attracting students and has been a really
    big growth area," he says. However, Smart adds that the University's
    problem does not look very difficult at first glance. It took New
    Scientist 30 minutes to decode and solve the problem.
    It is not the first time that a code-cracking puzzle has been used to
    select new recruits. The UK government's intelligence headquarters,
    GCHQ, issued a challenge to job hunters in January 2000. The problem
    was more complicated than Lethbridge's and involved messages hidden
    within images on the organisation's web site. Another problem was
    posed in November 2000.
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