Welcome to the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation. The NCMF directly supports the National Cryptologic Museum (NCM), the first public museum in the U.S. Intelligence Community.

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Polish mathematicians & code breakers made the first breakthroughs against Nazi Germany's Enigma code.......

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The History of Traffic Analysis

The History of Traffic Analysis

A brochure titled, "The History of Traffic Analysis: World War I - Vietnam," has been published recently and is available, for free, when you visit the NCM or you can send a request to the Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency, 9800 Savage Road, Suite 6886, Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755.

The brochure was written by Donald A. Borrmann, William T. Kvetkas, Charles V. Brown, Michael J. Flatley, and Robert Hunt. What follows is a direct quote from the brochure. The complete brochure, in PDF format, is available from the NSA web site.

Definition

The word traffic to a communicator or cryptologist referred to communications passed between a sender and an intended recipient. Thus, the study of traffic by unintended recipients was called traffic analysis. T/A has been the study of “external” features of target communications. It also can be used against non communications electronic emissions and telemetry signals. It examined all aspects of communications transmissions excluding code or cipher message content, which was the purview of cryptanalysis (C/A). Traffic analysts studied signals’ characteristics, including radio frequency usage, callsigns, (a series of letters and/or numbers assigned to a specific radio station), transmission schedules, locations of transmitters, the routings and volumes of message traffic, informal “chatter” between the targets’ radio operators and the unique characteristics exhibited by manual Morse operators, referred to as their “fists.”

Signals intelligence (SIGINT) is a major segment of the intelligence discipline and communications intelligence (COMINT) is a subset of SIGINT. In turn, “traffic analysis” (T/A) is a significantpart of COMINT while also useful in other aspects of SIGINT. This brochure defines and explains traffic analysis when used in this context, as part of the broader discipline of signals intelligence. The brochure describes the elements of T/A and explains how T/A has been used for several purposes including to produce intelligence information, to aid cryptanalysis, and to support the collection of additional data. It then presents examples of intelligence contributions made by T/A during World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, including the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

A key purpose of this brochure is to improve the public’s and intelligence professionals’ understanding of T/A as an intelligence discipline. Further, it is intended that this will be a living document, to be amplified and expanded as the necessary research is completed, especially in light of new real-world examples of traffic analysis at work. In its present form, the report also can be used for historical reference and could even serve as a basis for developing museum displays.

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  • Government seizure of cryptologist Herbert Yardley's never-published book, "Japanese Diplomatic Secrets."

About Us

The NCMF directly supports the National Cryptologic Museum (NCM), the first public museum in the U.S. Intelligence Community. We think you will agree it is truly a "museum like no other."

Located adjacent to the National Security Agency (NSA) in Maryland, the NCM houses a priceless collection of artifacts that represent our Nation's history in code making and code breaking, as well as a world class library of cryptologic media. The NCMF acquires the best artifacts for the NCM and supports new educational and interactive exhibits.

The NCMF provides exceptional cryptologic programs throughout the year, encourages young minds to explore cryptology and innovation through valued awards, and hosts educational, cryptology-related exhibits at various community events.

As part of the Foundation's partnership with NSA to build the Cyber Center for Education and Innovation - Home of the National Cryptologic Museum (CCEI-NCM), the NCMF also serves as a leader in the field of cybersecurity - striving to provide the best in educational resources and programs.

The NCMF and NCM share a joint three-fold mission to Educate, Stimulate, and Commemorate. Learn more about our MISSION.