Gardening (cryptanalysis)

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In cryptanalysis, gardening was a term used at the British Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, England, during World War II; for schemes to entice the Germans to include known plaintext, which the British called "cribs", in their encrypted messages.[1][2][3] This term presumably came from RAF minelaying missions, or "gardening" sorties. "Gardening" was standard RAF slang for sowing mines in rivers, ports and oceans from low heights, possibly because each sea area around the European coasts was given a code-name of flowers or vegetables.[4][5]

The technique is claimed to have been most effective against messages produced by the German Navy's Enigma machines. If the Germans had recently swept a particular area for mines, and analysts at Bletchley Park were in need of some cribs, they might (and apparently did on several occasions) request that the area be mined again. This would hopefully evoke encrypted messages from the local command mentioning Minen (German for mines) and/or the location, and perhaps messages also from the headquarters with minesweeping ships to assign to that location, mentioning the same. It worked often enough to try several times.

This crib-based decryption is an example of a chosen-plaintext attack, because plain text effectively chosen by the British was injected into the ciphertext.

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  1. ^ Morris, Christopher (1993), "Navy Ultra's Poor Relations", in Hinsley, F.H.; Stripp, Alan, Codebreakers: The inside story of Bletchley Park, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 235, ISBN 978-0-19-280132-6 
  2. ^ Smith, Michael (2007) [1998], Station X: The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park, Pan Grand Strategy Series (Pan Books ed.), London: Pan McMillan Ltd, pp. 71–72, ISBN 978-0-330-41929-1 
  3. ^ Sebag-Montefiore, Hugh (2004) [2000], Enigma: The Battle for the Code (Cassell Military Paperbacks ed.), London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, p. 215, ISBN 978-0297842514 
  4. ^ MacIsaac, James J., Glossary of R.A.F. Slang & terminology, retrieved 4 March 2014 
  5. ^ 90 Squadron