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Peter Jenks
NSA cryptanalist

Peter Alan Jenks (19 December 1924 - 3 October 1989) was a mathematician and cryptanalist of the US National Security Agency (NSA). He was born on 12 December 1924 in Paris (France) and grew up in the US in Cambridge (MA) and Michigan. He was a Harvard graduate and served in the US Navy in the Atlantic and the Pacific during World War II (WWII). Shortly after the war, in 1949, he joined the NSA where he worked for 30 years as a cryptomathematician and cryptanalyst [1].

In the mid 1960s, Peter Jenks became involved in what would later become known as Operation RUBICON, the secret purchase of the Swiss crypto manufacturer Grypto AG (Hagelin) by the CIA and the German BND, with the aim to spy on its customers [2]. He became the architect of what we now know as a backdoor; the deliberate weaking of a cipher algorithm with the aim to break it more easily if you know where to look. He first tried it on the mechanical Hagelin CX-52, before moving on to electronic cipher machines based on electronic shift registers, such as the H-460.

In 1975, he received the Exceptional Civilian Service Award for his groundbreaking work at the NSA. In mid-1979, whilst developing the next generation of backdoors for Operation RUBICON, he abrubtly left the NSA and retired at the age of 54. He died on 3 October 1989, aged 64, at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore (MD) of myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disorder [1].

Related subjects on this website
Deliberate weakening of a cipher system with the aim to break it more easily
Operation RUBICON (THESAURUS) - the secret purchase of Crypto AG
CX-52 with removable wheels and irregular stepping
H-460, the first electronic Hagelin cipher machine based on shift-registers
HC-520 CRYPTOMATIC portable off-line cipher machine
HC-530 CRYPTOMATIC portable electronic cipher machine
HC-550 CRYPTOMATIC desktop electronic cipher machine
HC-570 CRYPTOMATIC desktop electronic cipher machine
  • At NSA there is the Peter Jenks Community Service Award.
  1. Washington Post, Obituary
    6 October 1989.

  2. Crypto Museum, Operation RUBICON
    19 March 2020.

  3. CIA Historian, MINERVA, a History
    Internal CIA publication TOP SECRET, 2004. 1,2

  4. Harvard University - Red Book Yearbook (Cambridge, MA) - Class of 1945 Retrieved February 2022.
  1. Unreleased and undated draft copy.  More

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Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 03 February 2022. Last changed: Friday, 04 February 2022 - 10:08 CET.
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