Concept

The Magic Words are Squeamish Ossifrage

Summary
"The Magic Words are Squeamish Ossifrage" was the solution to a challenge ciphertext posed by the inventors of the RSA cipher in 1977. The problem appeared in Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column in the August 1977 issue of Scientific American. It was solved in 1993–94 by a large, joint computer project co-ordinated by Derek Atkins, Michael Graff, Arjen Lenstra and Paul Leyland. More than 600 volunteers contributed CPU time from about 1,600 machines (two of which were fax machines) over six months. The coordination was done via the Internet and was one of the first such projects. Ossifrage ('bone-breaker', from Latin) is an older name for the bearded vulture, a scavenger famous for dropping animal bones and live tortoises on top of rocks to crack them open. The 1993–94 effort began the tradition of using the words "squeamish ossifrage" in cryptanalytic challenges. The difficulty of breaking the RSA cipher—recovering a plaintext message given a ciphertext and the public key—is c
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