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Cracking & Hacking Code

‚ÄčAs society relies more and more on technology, it also faces the unintended consequences of its innovation and growth. The creation of the world wide web, originally intended for the rapid exchange of information within the scientific community, expedited medical innovations, fostered research, and provided information to move freely worldwide. However, it has also created paths of destruction including the spread of malicious software, the misuse of targeted advertising, and scams designed to illegally collect private data.

The AP Computer Science Principles class led by Mr. Danza took a deep dive into the evolution of computing innovations with their field trip to the National Security Agency’s Cryptologic Museum. Students participated in a scavenger hunt, created their own ciphers, cracked codes, hacked an electric car, and learned about the history of cryptology in U.S. by exploring declassified artifacts. They were privileged to hear from a speaker on “Defending Our Nation in Cyberspace.”

The National Cryptologic Museum houses hundreds of rare artifacts of spy-craft and code-breaking. Visitors get to know some of the greatest cryptologists from around the world, and can see and even use some of the devices and machines these cryptologists have made to save lives during times of peace and war.

The field trip compliments the AP course curriculum, specifically the Caesar Cipher Project that looks at the benefits and harmful effects of technological innovation. Julius Caesar created what is now known as the Caesar Cipher to pass coded military communications without fear of discovery. His substitution cipher method was broken by an Arab mathematician over 800 years later.

The trip also reinforces lessons from the Password Cracker Project that highlights the safety, ethics and legal ramifications of computer innovation.