Back in July the Royal Mint issued a commemorative 50-pence coin celebrating mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing. The designers incorporated a hidden code into the design. Now the Royal Australian Mint has released its own coded coin commemorating the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation.
Your spy skills could soon be put to the test by a new 50-cent coin covered in secret, coded messages.
The limited-edition commemorative coin will be released on Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of the nation's foreign intelligence cybersecurity agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).
While the coin is not intended for circulation, 50,000 specialty coins will be available for purchase from the Royal Australian Mint, each featuring four levels of coded messages to crack.
ASD director-general Rachel Noble said the coin celebrated the work of the agency's members and the evolution of code-breaking.
"Back in World War II, our people, military and civilian, and mostly women … used pencil and paper to decode Japanese military codes, and then re-encode them to send them out to the allies to let them know where Japanese war fighters were," she said.
"We have used that part of our history in different layers, which represent the progress of encryption and technology through our 75 years."
ASD director-general Rachel Noble and mint chief Leigh Gordon
The coin serves a larger purpose than just being a fun puzzle to solve, with Ms Noble saying those who crack the codes could be "pretty well placed" to get a job at the ASD.
"We thought this was a really fun way to engage people in code-breaking with the hope that, if they make it through all four levels of coding on the coin, maybe they'll apply for a job at the Australian Signals Directorate."
Well, it didn't take long for solutions to emerge. Within an hour a Tasmanian teen became the first to correctly crack the code.
Thanks to Don Cleveland for passing this along.
It was meant to be the coin with a secret message that was tough to decode.
The commemorative 50c piece, to mark the Australian Signals Directorate's 75th anniversary, features four unique layers of encryption which contain special messages about the intelligence agency.
However, just an hour after its release yesterday, a 14-year-old boy from Tasmania became the first to correctly crack the code, which features a combination of coding dating back thousands of years and more modern binary code.
During a Lowy Institute Q&A, ASD Director-General Rachel Noble insinuated the message had been figured out much quicker than they expected, and joked that they were hoping to recruit the youngster.
"At 8.45 in the morning we put up our web forum and said, 'hey, if you think you've got the answers, fill in the form'," Noble said.
"And believe it or not, a boy, 14 years old, in Tasmania was the first person in just over an hour to get all four right — it's unbelievable."
Her comment prompted laughs, as did the notion the teen could become the next member of the spy agency.
"So, we're hoping to meet him soon," she said, adding under her breath "and recruit him".
However, Noble also announced there was a fifth level of encryption contained in the coin, meaning there's one more message left for the teenager to decode.
I can see a new numismatic specialty emerging - coded coins. Although few explicitly incorporate secret codes, there are many examples using Morse code, braille and other public codes. This would make an interesting survey article or exhibit.
To read the complete article, see:
Coded new 50c coin solved by Tasmanian teen an hour after its release
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
ROYAL MINT HONORS ALAN TURING
Wayne Homren, Editor
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