Indistinguishable – 05/29/2023

How it all Works...

Claire's having a bit of a flashback here, if that's not clear. Maybe having regrets? Time will tell... (The rest of this blog post is gonna be pretty long, and not important to the story, I just wanted to explain the tech, for people who might be curious.)


First off, this is a fictional algorithm that doesn't exist. I do not believe such an algorithm could exist given my current understanding of cryptography, which, while I have studied, I'm not an expert in. Essentially, the encryption key changes every so often, so finding an encryption key is more of a matter of finding out *when* a particular encryption key will be valid. For any given 4096-bit sequence, that could range from "in 5 seconds" to "sometime after the heat death of the universe," so it's also a matter of finding a key that will be useful before the end of linear time. Decryption hardware would be built into Vanguard's datacenter to keep this from being a constant pain in the ass for everyone involved.

Jade's analogy of a slot machine is relatively accurate to how it works in my head. Every chunk of the full data set has its own internal timing, synchronized with the hardware that it was originally encrypted on. In this case, that would again be Vanguard's datacenter. In the case of copying the encrypted data, however, you lose synchronization as each chunk is transferred to another disk. If it weren't for that, decrypting this disk would've taken days, weeks at most. However, by semi-manually aligning the internal timing on each chunk, sifting through the chaos, it's possible for someone skilled (like Claire, and Thea) to simulate the synchronization signal, locking in chunks as they fall in line.

To borrow from Jade's analogy, think of it like a very long slot machine, and you have to get each reel to display a 7 in order to win. The trick is, every time you spin the wheel, you can take all the wheels that came up as a 7, and lock them in place. Then, the next time you spin, you can lock in more 7s, and so on. This part *is* based on how several real sorting algorithms work, so I feel like it works.

After that, it's simply a matter of Lockheart Inc's quantum computers breaking the actual encryption key, a process that can be started as soon as the first chunks are "locked in". And, as we saw in last week's comic, that process is complete, and we'll have access to the files in just over 3 weeks (in-comic time)!

2 thoughts on “Indistinguishable – 05/29/2023

  1. I love the extra lore building and technical explanations.

    1. I’m glad you do! I like thinking about how the tech I am interested in will evolve over the next 50+ years and see what will be the same and what will be completely different.

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