Welcome guest.   Log in
The ALAN TURING
Cryptography Competition.
(edition 2015: #4).
Home
About
Cryptography
Register
FAQ
Rules
For
Teachers
News
Leaderboard
Forum
Map
Archive
The Tale of the

Carbon

Conundrum

Chapter 1
Due: Mon 26 Jan, 4 pm
Countdown clock:
Chapter 2
Due: Mon 2 Feb, 4 pm
Chapter 3
Due: Mon 9 Feb, 4 pm
Chapter 4
Due: Mon 23 Feb, 4 pm
Chapter 5
Due: Mon 9 Mar, 4 pm
Chapter 6
Due: Mon 23 Mar, 4 pm
Epilogue
Due: Mon 6 Apr, 4 pm
Solutions
Due: Mon 13 Apr, 4 pm
Announcing

The Alan Turing

Cryptography Day

2015!

Want to come over to Manchester for a bit of live crypto stuff, the prize ceremony and an opportunity to meet the organisers?

Then sign up!

FAQ.

Registration

How do I set up a team?

Click here to go to the registration page.

One person from each team will need to set up the team initially. You can do this by clicking the link `Option 1: register a new team'. You will be asked for a team name, a contact email address for the team, your name and nickname, and contact details for your school including the name of a teacher. You can then send out invitations to the other people that are part of your team.

If you want to join an existing team, then you should click the `Option 2: join an existing team' link or, if you have been invited to join an existing team, click on the link in the invitation email. You can then enter your details, including your name and nickname.

Optionally, each team can have a 50x50 pixel team icon or avatar.

If you create a team by mistake or accidentally join the wrong team, then you should contact us at cryptography_competition@manchester.ac.uk.

Does it cost anything to take part in the competition?

No. The competition is free to enter.

Do I have to be in a team of 4?

No. Teams can be made up of 1,2,3 or 4 people. However, doing mathematics/cryptography is very much a collaborative activity, and you will probably find it easier and more fun to work together on the challenges.

What can we choose as a team name?

Anything you like! (Although we reserve the right to ban offensive or inappropriate team names.)

Can we change our team name, usernames or email addresses?

No. As you will be competing against other teams and there will be a leaderboard so that you can compare how you're doing, you have to keep the same team name throughout the competition. Furthermore your username appears when you post on the forum and it would hence be confusing if this could be changed. To ensure we can communicate with you we require a valid email address that can't be changed.

Do team members have to give their real names?

When you register, you will be asked for your real name and your nickname. Your real name will be used on the certificates (if you are in a winning team!), but will not be used on the competition website. Only your nickname will be used on the competition website and forums.

Why do team members have to give their school year?

Because the competition is only open to persons who are in full-time education (including home schoolers) in the United Kingdom in years up to and including Year 11 (in England and Wales), S4 (Scotland), and Year 12 (Northern Ireland).

What is the School Map?

The School Map shows where competing teams' schools are located. You can choose whether or not your team appears on this map.

What is the difference between a competing team and a non-competing team?

A non-competing team will not be eligible to win any prizes, will not appear on the leaderboard and will not be able to post in the forum. However, if you are in a non-competing team then you can play along with the competition, and submit your answers and see if you have correctly solved the codes! Non-competing teams can submit their answer for a chapter as soon as the next chapter is released. Teachers and parents who want to see if they are smarter than their pupils and children should enter as non-competing teams!

Who can I contact if I have problems registering?

You can contact us on cryptography_competition@manchester.ac.uk.

What happens if I forget my password?

On the login page you can click on the link 'Forgotten your password?'. Follow the steps after clicking that link to reset your password.

The competition

When is each chapter released?

The schedule is as follows:

ChapterDate released
1Monday 26th January 2015
2Monday 2nd February 2015
3Monday 9th February 2015
4Monday 23rd February 2015
5Monday 9th March 2015
6Monday 23rd March 2015
EpilogueMonday 6th April 2015
SolutionsMonday 13th April 2015

Each chapter (including the Epilogue and the Solutions) is normally released at 4pm on the day of release. This is done using the clock of the server on which the site is hosted, so there may be a slight difference with your clock. We reserve the right to release the chapter at a later time and/or day in case of an unforeseen event or technical problems.

The competition closes at midnight on Friday 10th April 2015. The answers will be released on Monday 13th April 2015 or shortly afterwards.

Why is there a one week gap between the release of Chapters 1 and 2 and between Chapters 2 and 3, but a two week gap between the other release dates?

This was suggested by competitors in previous years (previously there was a two week gap between all chapters). The codes get harder as the competition progresses. Hopefully the majority of you will find the first two chapters straightforward and will solve them fairly quickly. By having just a one-week gap until the next chapter is released, we can keep the momentum going with the competition - and you won't have so long to wait until the next code!

How long do we get to complete each chapter?

Once released, each chapter remains open until the competition closes at midnight on Friday 10th April 2015. You do not need to solve the chapters in order, nor will solving earlier chapters necessarily help in solving subsequent chapters. That said, spot prizes will only be awarded to teams that complete the chapter within one week (for Chapters 1 and 2) or two weeks (for Chapters 3 to 6) of its scheduled release.

How many attempts do we get for each chapter?

For each chapter you and your team mates have three attempts to submit the correct solution. If all three attempts are incorrect, you will not be able to submit any more entries for that chapter and hence won't earn any points for that chapter. We want to prevent teams guessing solutions, yet on the other hand we also want to allow for incidental mistakes and typos.

What's the role of the Epilogue? Can we get points for it?

The Epilogue allows us to tie-up loose ends in the story. There will be a code at the end of the Epilogue, but it's strictly `just-for-fun'! There are no points nor prizes available for the code in the Epilogue.

The story takes place in various locations in and around Manchester. Do we have to visit them?

No, visiting the locations in the story will not help you solve the codes. All of the information needed to crack the codes is contained in the codes themselves, the story, and the hints provided.

We're completely stuck trying to solve a code - what should we do?

Firstly, don't panic! The codes increase in difficulty as the story progresses, and you will probably have to spend some amount of time thinking about and trying possible ways of cracking the codes before you hit on the right method. Sometimes, if you get stuck, then putting the codes to one side and doing something else can help you to mull over possible ways of making progress.

Where can we get some practice at solving codes?

A good starting point is about Cryptography, where you can read a brief introduction and find some suggestions for further reading. Also you can see the archive of previous competitions here.

What happens to teams who misbehave in the competition?

Any team that cheats or tries to cheat (by getting or asking for help from someone outside of their team, or by requesting or giving hints to the codes on the forum or on other websites) will face a penalty. Anybody who posts inappropriate or offensive posts on the forum will also face a penalty. The penalties we can impose range from a formal warning, a deduction of points, a ban from the forum, or expulsion from the competition.

In short: we know you're all competitive and want to win, but please don't spoil the competition by cheating.

The forum

Can we post solutions to the chapters in the forum?

No. In order to not spoil the competition for other teams, any post on the forum that contains the solutions (or links to where solutions can be found) will be deleted and you or your team may be penalised.

What can we discuss in the forum?

Use the forum to discuss (or boast about!) your progress with other teams. The competition organisers may also use the forum to drop the occasional hint...

Are the forums moderated?

The competition organisers will keep an eye on the forum and will delete any inappropriate or offensive material. Any team who makes offensive posts risks being banned from the competition.

Who can we contact if we have a problem with the forum?

Contact us on cryptography_competition@manchester.ac.uk.

Team notepad

What is the team notepad?

The team notepad section of the website (click on Notepad when you are logged in) is where you can leave messages for other people in your team. This means that you can still work together in solving the codes, even if your team aren't all in the same place!

Can other teams read my team's notepad?

No. Only the people in your team can read your team notepad. The competition organisers can also read what you post, and will keep an eye out for any inappropriate or offensive material.

The leaderboard and the prizes

How does the scoring system and leaderboard work?

As well as their rank, teams will be awarded a number of points for each chapter they solve correctly. The first team to solve each code will be awarded fifteen points and then the clock starts ticking for the other teams. The other teams will be awarded points based on how much longer it takes them to solve the code compared to the first team to crack it, according to the following table:

Points awarded:If the correct solution is received by our server:
15within one hour of the first team to submit the correct solution
14within two hours of the first team to submit the correct solution
12within four hours of the first team to submit the correct solution
11within one day of the first team to submit the correct solution
10within two days of the first team to submit the correct solution
9within three days of the first team to submit the correct solution
8within four days of the first team to submit the correct solution
7within five days of the first team to submit the correct solution
6within six days of the first team to submit the correct solution
5within one week of the first team to submit the correct solution
3within ten days of the first team to submit the correct solution
2within two weeks of the first team to submit the correct solution
1later than two weeks after the first team to submit the correct solution,
but before the end of the competition

(This scoring system applies to Chapters 1, 2, 3 (which are released weekly) and Chapters 4, 5, 6 (which are released fortnightly).)

Teams who have solved the most number of chapters will appear at the top of the leaderboard. If teams have solved the same number of chapters, the number of points awarded for each chapter will be summed to give a total points score and the team with the highest score wins. If teams tie on the number of points, these teams will be ranked according to the total time taken to solve all the codes (the team with the shortest overall time being ranked highest).

What are the prizes?

The prizes are kindly sponsored by the flight search company SkyScanner, which was set up by two former University of Manchester based Computer Scientists. There are prizes for:
- being the first team to solve each chapter
- coming first, second or third in the leaderboard at the end of the competition
- spot prizes for teams who have solved each chapter.

What do I win if my team is first to solve a chapter?

If your team is the first to correctly solve a chapter, then each team member wins £15 in Amazon gift vouchers. The winners will be formally announced on the competition website and forum when the next chapter of the competition is released, and will also be informed by email.

What do I win if my team is one of the top three at the end of the competition?

The following prizes will be awarded to the teams that are at the top of the leaderboard when the competition closes:
- first place: each team member wins £30 in Amazon gift vouchers
- second place: each team member wins £25 in Amazon gift vouchers
- third place: each team member wins £20 in Amazon gift vouchers
In addition, each team member will receive a certificate and the school will receive a trophy.

How do the spot prizes work?

Each chapter will have at most 5 spot prizes. To win a spot prize, your team must have correctly solved the chapter within one week (for Chapters 1 and 2) or two weeks (for Chapters 3 to 6) of the scheduled release of that chapter. Five teams who have solved the chapter within that time will be chosen at random by our server and awarded a spot prize of £10 in Amazon gift vouchers for each team member. The winners of the spot prizes will be announced on the website and forum, and will also be informed by email. In order to spread the prizes around as much as possible, if your team is the first team to solve a chapter, then you won't be eligible to win a spot prize for that chapter.

When will I receive my prize?

For the chapter prizes and spot prizes, the vouchers will be sent out by post on the Tuesday after the following chapter has been released. (So if you win one of the chapter prizes you might have to wait 2 weeks to receive your prize.) The vouchers will be sent to your school, addressed to the teacher you named as a contact when you registered. For the teams who come first, second and third on the leaderboard at the end of the competition, the prizes will be awarded at the `Alan Turing Cryptography Day' on Wednesday 30th April 2014 (see below for more details of this event). If you or your team can't make it, then we will send the prizes (together with certificates and trophies) shortly afterwards to your school and addressed to the teacher you named as a contact when you registered.

What else can I win?

Every team member of every team who successfully completes all 6 chapters by the end of the competition will receive a certificate. These certificates will be sent out in early May to your school.

The Alan Turing Cryptography Day

What, and when, is the Alan Turing Cryptography Day?

The Alan Turing Cryptography Day will be a one-day event running in the School of Mathematics at the University of Manchester on Wednesday 29th April 2015. We're putting the final touches to the plans for this, but we are planning to have some interactive activities based around cryptography, a live mini-crytography competition, and a prize ceremony for the top three teams who came top of the leaderboard in the web-based competition.

Who can attend the Alan Turing Cryptography Day?

Anybody in Year 11 (in England and Wales), S4 (in Scotland) or Year 12 (in Northern Ireland) or below! Having said that, the numbers will be limited and we will give preference to those who have taken part in the competition or those from `Widening Participation' schools. A registration page will be available on the competition website shortly.

How can I attend the Alan Turing Cryptography Day?

You will need to get permission from your school to attend and then register on the website.

Can I get help with attending the Alan Turing Cryptography Day?

We can't arrange travel for you (your school or parents will need to do that), but we plan to have funds available to contribute towards travel expenses. We hope to be able to contribute towards the travel expenses particularly for `Widening Participation' schools in the NW or along the M62 corridor and for teams that have done well in the competition. There will be an application process for support (that your teachers will need to complete). More details will be announced on the website in early 2014.