Your spy skills may soon be put to the test with a new 50 cent coin covered in secret coded messages.
- To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Australian Communications Authority, 50,000 coins were minted.
- The coins contain messages hidden by four levels of encryption.
- The cyber-espionage agency says people who can crack the code can make good recruits.
A limited edition commemorative coin will be released today to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the national intelligence agency for cybersecurity, the Australian Communications Authority (ASD).
While the coin is not meant to be circulated, 50,000 special coins will be available for purchase from the Royal Australian Mint, each with four levels of coded hack messages.
ASD CEO Rachel Noble said the coin is dedicated to the work of members of the agency and the development of code breaking.
“Back in World War II, our people, military and civilian, mostly women… used pencil and paper to decipher Japanese military codes and then recoded them to send them to the allies so they knew where the Japanese military fighters were. ,” she said.
“We have used this part of our history at different levels, which represent the progress of encryption and technology over the 75 years of our work.”
Puzzle is the new recruiting scheme
The coin serves a wider purpose than just a fun puzzle to solve, and Ms Noble says those who break the codes may be “pretty well placed” to get a job at ASD.
“We thought it was a really fun way to get people to crack the code in the hope that if they get past all four levels of coding on the coin, maybe they will apply for a job with the Australian Communications Authority.”
This is not the first time that a normally secretive government agency has chosen a very public way of hiring new employees.
In 2017, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service launched an online test with a range of scenarios aimed at Australia’s next generation of international spies.
Then, last year, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization used Instagram to uncover the mystery surrounding the lives of today’s spies.
Tips for deciphering the secrets of the coin
ASD says that each of the coin’s four different levels of encryption becomes increasingly difficult to decipher, and clues can be found on both sides of the coin.
Royal Australian Mint chief executive Lee Gordon said cryptography experts worked with the mint on the design of the coin, although he added that even after the design was completed, setting the codes on the face of the coin was a complex process.
“Although the 50 cent coin is the largest coin in Australia, it still does not have a large area,” he said.
“Ensuring that people can see the code to decipher it was one of the challenges our people were able to solve with ASD to create a unique and special product.”
Ms Noble said that while there were no secret messages on the coin, those who crack the codes could uncover “some wonderful, uplifting messages.”
“Like the early codebreakers in ASD, you can complete some levels with pencil and paper, but towards the end you may need a computer to solve the final level,” she said.