Looking for Help from Hackers | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.06.2002
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Looking for Help from Hackers

The electronic archive of a language institute in Norway, containing some 11, 000 titles, was inaccessabile for two years after the archivist took the password to the grave. The institute turned to hackers for help.


Hmmm....now what was that word?

When Reidar Djupedal died in 2000, he took to the grave a password which protected a Norwegian language institute’s electronic archive of books and documents.

The database contains some 11,000 titles. As recreating it would take up to 4 years, the Ivar Aasen Centre of Language endeavoured on a feverish search for the password.

But after two years searching in vain, the institute resolved to appeal to computer hackers to help them break in.

Swamped with replies

They had tried numerous variations Otto Grepstad, head of The Ivar Aasen Centre of Language and Culture in Norway, said, including both family names connected to Aasen and the man who had assembled the online database.

But in the end, the institute decided to put the catalog files out on its web site, and to invite hackers to have a crack.

It didn’t take long, and the site was literally swamped with replies, receiving as much traffic in a day, as it would normally get in a year.

Simple answer

But in the end, it only took hackers five hours to crack the code.

A 25-year-old Swede is said to have discovered that the password was Djupedal’s name, spelt backwards.

"It sounds simple now that we have the answer, but the database was created in an old programme that few have now, and the public institutions we asked for help didn’t manage to crack the code", Ottar Grepstad, director of the Ivar Aasen Centre of Language and Culture, told the Afterposten newspaper.

But this was only the first step. Accessing the database required another password.

This one was even simpler – the archivist’s first name.