experts gleefully solved a Norwegian institute's data problems after an
archivist died, taking a vital password to his grave. Internet hackers
answered an emergency call for assistance.
Ivar Aasen Centre of Language and Culture in Norway offered a reward of
a round-trip flight to the "New Norwegian" Festival of Literature and
Music in June to the first person to supply them with the password
needed to access a database indexing over 11,000 titles compiled by
The power of the Internet resulted in a flood of
e-mail suggestions and a feverish informal competition among tech types
on the web.
According to Aasen Centre information chief Torgeir
Dimmen, the institute received a solution for their long-standing
security headache within five hours of their Internet appeal.
"That's what happens when you mobilize all the people out there - just fantastic!" Dimmen said.
institute released the full details of the contest winner on Monday.
They credited a 25-year-old Swede, Joakim Eriksson from Växsjö, with
providing the answer - 'ladepjud' - first.
This password was only
the first step in gaining access to the archive material. It freed the
database, but accessing the material required another password, this
one the even simpler 'reidar'.
The Aasen centre noted that one of
their first tips came from parapsychologists who told them the password
would likely be something simple spelled backwards.
Institute director Ottar Grepstad said it was easy to say the mystery was simple afterwards.
sounds simple now that we have the answer, but the database was created
in an old program that few have now, and the public institutions we
asked for help didn't manage to crack the code," Grepstad said.
is interesting that this case has sparked a serious debate among
computer experts about how one should take care of an important
password. What was a bit of a PR stunt from us has had positive
repercussions," Grepstad said.
Hackers gathered at www.slashdot.org discussed the problem when it was released and claimed to have solved the puzzle on Friday.
Aasen Institute seemed to agree that the answer extracted at the site
for self-proclaimed nerds was 'ladepjud' - the researcher's name
spelled backwards - but waited over the weekend to see if that
information was enough to allow full access to the valuable index.
simplicity of the apparent solution was somewhat puzzling as various
attempts to crack the code earlier had reportedly tried variations on
names from both Djupedal's and Aasen' families.
not comment on the surprisingly simple password, saying only that the
original investigation had been headed by BIBSYS, a national library
If the catalog proved inaccessible it would have taken the institute about four years of work to recreate.
The Aasen center researches Norway's second language Nynorsk
(New Norwegian), compiled by linguist Ivar Aasen from the country's
local oral dialects as an alternative to the official written language
that is based on Danish.