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Vernam, Mauborgne, and Friedman: The One-Time Pad and the Index of Coincidence

16 May 2014

I have a new crypto history paper out: "Vernam, Mauborgne, and Friedman: The One-Time Pad and the Index of Coincidence". Here's the abstract:

The conventional narrative for the invention of the AT&T one-time pad was related by David Kahn. Based on the evidence available in the AT&T patent files and from interviews and correspondence, he concluded that Gilbert Vernam came up with the need for randomness, while Joseph Mauborgne realized the need for a non-repeating key. Examination of other documents suggests a different narrative. It is most likely that Vernam came up with the need for non-repetition; Mauborgne, though, apparently contributed materially to the invention of the two-tape variant. Furthermore, there is reason to suspect that he suggested the need for randomness to Vernam. However, neither Mauborgne, Herbert Yardley, nor anyone at AT&T really understood the security advantages of the true one-time tape. Col.&mbsp;Parker Hitt may have; William Friedman definitely did. Finally, we show that Friedman's attacks on the two-tape variant likely led to his invention of the index of coincidence, arguably the single most important publication in the history of cryptanalysis.

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