TCOM Graduate Students Visit National Cryptologic Museum

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Graduate Students Santiago Torres and Michael Ashwell, Adjunct Professor John Masiyowski, Museum tour Guide Greg Nedved, and Graduate Student Caesar RomeroContributed by Prof. John Masiyowski

Experiencing technology described and seen in textbooks in the real-world is sometimes a rare experience for graduate students.  A local museum within easy driving distance from the GMU Fairfax campus provided just such an opportunity for the students of TCOM 556 Cryptography and Network Security first hand to learn about, see and touch technology used in this ever changing field.  The National Cryptologic Museum located near Fort Meade, Maryland has an extensive collection of machines and displays of Cryptographic and Information Assurance artifacts.

Students of TCOM 556 accompanied by their Instructor, Adjunct Professor John Masiyowski went on a 1.5 hour staff guided tour of the Museum and were paired up with undergraduate Computer Science students from Loyola College in Baltimore Maryland.  The Museum has twelve WWII era German Enigma (means puzzle in German) cipher machines on display, with two fully functional machines being directly accessible by museum visitors for hands-on cipher experiments.  The American version of the Enigma, called the SIGABA is on display at the museum and according to reports was never broken while in service, but was actually overkill for tactical communications.  The museum also has a rare collection of books on cryptographic, one which documents the art of secret communications used in western society back in 1518.  The museum tour guide, Greg Nedved, noted that even way back in ancient times, the Romans practiced the exchange of secret messages using ciphers.   Having this National resource so close to GMU is a practical way to bring the classroom to life and show how cryptography and network security technologies were used in past, are used in present and will be continually used in future.