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03rd Sep 2022

Boy, 14, cracks national intelligence agency code in just an hour

Charlie Herbert

Boy cracks national intelligence agency code

He cracked four levels of encryption on a coin

A brainy teen in Australia has managed to crack four levels of code on a commemorative coin released by the country’s foreign intelligence cybersecurity agency.

The 14-year-old from Tasmania cracked the code in just an hour, shocking officials who couldn’t believe how quickly he solved the puzzle.

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) said the clues for the code could be found on both sides of the 50-cent coin, with each layer of encryption progressively harder to solve.

ASD’s Director-General Rachel Noble spoke at the Lowy Institute on Friday, praising the clever teen who surprised them with his knowledge.

She said: “There’s a challenge out there to see who can correctly break all the layers, and, would you believe it, yesterday the coin was launched at 8.45am; we put up our web form and said, ‘Hey, if you think you’ve got the answers, fill in the form.’

“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 layers right.”

Noble continued: “Just unbelievable. Can you imagine being his mum?

“So, we’re hoping to meet him soon … to recruit him.”

The limited-edition commemorative coin was released on Thursday (1 September) to mark the 75th anniversary of the ASD.

Only 50,000 were minted for the occasion and were available to purchase from the Royal Australian Mint.

On the coin’s release, Noble had said that anyone who broke the code would be “pretty well placed” to get a job at the ASD.

The coin was designed to celebrate the work of the agency’s members and the evolution of code breaking.

Noble said: “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.”

But it turns out the 14-year-old still has one more challenge if he’s up for it, as the director-general revealed there is a secret fifth level to the coin that no one has broken yet.

Along with the chance of a job at ASD, those who crack the code will reveal “some wonderful, uplifting messages” on the special coin.

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