When Crows Break Codes

This webinar will cover the history of modern codes and ciphers, with some brief reflections from an early career spent in the field. Join us to break a World War 2 German Enigma cipher message together, to get an understanding of cryptography both then and now, and to gain some insight into the modern issues in codemaking and codebreaking. We will cover the core principles of codemaking and codebreaking, look at some practical case studies up to 1970 including some of the more sensational spy cases which were solved by cryptanalysis, and then take a more general tour of events since 1970 leading to modern advances like asymmetric cryptography, the safety of transactions on the Internet, Bitcoin and Blockchain. This is an unclassified presentation containing material that can be found in open sources.

Speaker and Presenter Information

Mr. John Kolm served in Australia’s version of the National Security Agency, and then in the National Security Agency itself, for ten years. He was a career mathematician, specializing in cryptography, and also spent a lot of time deployed in the field. He is qualified in math and psychology from the University of Melbourne, and again in math from the U.S. National Cryptologic School.


After his NSA career, John became interested in leadership and the dynamics of workplace teams and groups, and he has worked in this field since 1996. However he maintains a strong interest in mathematical methods and has given many conference papers in this area. It turns out that many of the mathematical ideas useful in the study of codes are also useful in the study of team and group behavior.


John has also made a special study of Enigma, and has developed a method of demonstrating the successful Allied cryptographic attack on this system without the need for advanced math.

Relevant Government Agencies

Air Force, Army, Navy & Marine Corps, Intelligence Agencies, DOD & Military, Dept of Homeland Security, Dept of Veterans Affairs, Other Federal Agencies, Coast Guard, Federal Government, State & Local Government

Event Type

Thu, Jan 28, 2021, 2:00pm - 3:00pm ET

Complimentary:    $ 0.00

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Association of Old Crows

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