Follow TV Tropes

Unintentional Encryption

Go To

A document is unusable when stolen or intercepted, more by accident than by design

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Luke_The_Great on Mar 1st 2019 at 8:29:19 AM
Last Edited By:
Luke_The_Great on Mar 14th 2019 at 9:17:49 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

A document is lost or stolen, and whoever intercepts it cannot use it (or if they do try using the information, it ends up blowing up in their face) due to certain aspects of the document itself. The thing is, these aspects were unintentional, not a conscious decision on the part of the creator.

Examples:

Live Action Television

  • In an episode of The Office (US), Dwight steals Michael's rolodex, which is filled with the names of several clients and color-coded personal information about them. The color-coding, however, is highly idiosyncratic; for example, green means "go right ahead and shut up about that", while orange means "orange you glad I didn't bring that up?" (in a talking-head sequence, Michael admits that most of the colors are admonitions not to mention those topics). As a result, Dwight brings up a client's gay son (which is color coded green, so to Dwight it must have seemed to mean it was OK to discuss), and as a result ends up sabotaging the sale he's attempting to make.
  • One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit deals with a gay vigilante who is targeting men who knowingly spread HIV to their partners. He finds his targets by using files stolen from a clinic, but his efforts are briefly stymied when his latest batch of files turns out to be incompatible with his computer, forcing him to seek out someone to convert them.

Literature

  • Tatiana, one of the sequels to Gorky Park, had a murdered translator who kept his notebook in a highly personal form of shorthand; as a result, a significant part of the book consists of attempting to decipher the entries. One such entry reads:
    Box Kite: star, bug, sunrise, triangle. Man in Top Hat No Line: question mark, crossed knives, two rings, fish under wave. Crescent Moon: arrow down, bug, ear, equals sign, black teardrop, white teardrop and RR. Star: arrow down, railroad tracks, RR, and the letter L.
  • In The Westing Game, one character's notes are stolen. She puts up a want-ad requesting their return and stating that they are useless to anyone but her, because she knows this trope is in play — some of the other characters do turn out to know shorthand, but none of them also know Polish.

Video Game

  • The "The Messy Note" puzzle in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future involves making sense of a note which is obscured by the writer's horrible handwriting. It's supposed to have the number required to open a locked door on it, but it only says, "RHB=". It's actually a hastily written "121-113=", so the answer is "8".

Western Animation

  • In an episode of Doug, Doug loses his journal and is afraid that someone will read it and reveal all his embarrassing personal information. However, his handwriting is so illegible that Roger Klotz can't read any of his "chicken scratch" when he finds the journal.

Feedback: 6 replies

Mar 1st 2019 at 9:33:33 PM

Live Action TV

  • One episode of Law And Order Special Victims Unit deals with a gay vigilante who is targeting men who knowingly spread HIV to their partners. He finds his targets by using files stolen from a clinic, but his efforts are briefly stymied when his latest batch of files turns out to be incompatible with his computer, forcing him to seek out someone to convert them.

Mar 2nd 2019 at 10:23:32 AM

Literature

  • In The Westing Game, one character's notes are stolen. She puts up a want-ad requesting their return and stating that they are useless to anyone but her, because she knows this trope is in play — some of the other characters do turn out to know shorthand, but none of them also know Polish.

Mar 2nd 2019 at 10:24:36 AM

Someone who's read that book more recently than me should check the details of that, though.

Mar 4th 2019 at 11:24:28 AM

Video Game

  • The "The Messy Note" puzzle in Professor Layton And The Unwound Future involves making sense of a note which is obscured by the writer's horrible handwriting. It's supposed to have the number required to open a locked door on it, but it only says, "RHB=". It's actually a hastily written "121-113=", so the answer is "8".

Mar 14th 2019 at 9:17:49 PM

Any suggestions on what to index this on?

Top