Enigma Overview

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#1 Enigma Overview

Post by Alez »

Enigma machine
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Military Enigma machine, model "Enigma 1", used during the late 1930s and during the war; displayed at Museo scienza e tecnologia Milano, Italy

The Enigma machines were a series of electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines developed and used in the early- to mid-twentieth century to protect commercial, diplomatic and military communication. Enigma was invented by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I.[1] Early models were used commercially from the early 1920s, and adopted by military and government services of several countries, most notably Nazi Germany before and during World War II.[2] Several different Enigma models were produced, but the German military models, having a plugboard, were the most complex. Japanese and Italian models were also in use.

Around December 1932, Marian Rejewski of the Polish Cipher Bureau used the theory of permutations and flaws in the German military message procedures to break the message keys of the plugboard Enigma machine. Rejewski achieved this result without knowledge of the wiring of the machine, so the result did not allow the Poles to decrypt actual messages. The French had a spy with access to German cipher materials that included the daily keys used in September and October 1932. Those keys included the plugboard settings. The French gave the material to the Poles, and Rejewski used some of that material and the message traffic in September and October to solve for the unknown rotor wiring. Consequently, the Poles were able to build their own Enigma machines, which were called Enigma doubles. Rejewski was aided by cryptanalysts Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski, both of whom had been recruited with Rejewski from Poznań University. The Polish Cipher Bureau developed techniques to defeat the plugboard and find all components of the daily key, which enabled the Cipher Bureau to read the German's Enigma messages. Over time, the German cryptographic procedures improved, and the Cipher Bureau developed techniques and designed mechanical devices to continue breaking the Enigma traffic. As part of that effort, the Poles exploited quirks of the rotors, compiled catalogs, built a cyclometer to help make a catalog with 100,000 entries, made Zygalski sheets and built the electro-mechanical cryptologic bomb to search for rotor settings. In 1938, the Germans added complexity to the Enigma machines that finally became too expensive for the Poles to counter. The Poles had six bomby, but when the Germans added two more rotors, ten times as many bomby were needed, but the Poles did not have the resources.[3]

On 26 and 27 July 1939,[4] in Pyry near Warsaw, the Poles initiated French and British military intelligence representatives into their Enigma-decryption techniques and equipment, including Zygalski sheets and the cryptologic bomb, and promised each delegation a Polish-reconstructed Enigma. The demonstration represented a vital basis for the later British continuation and effort.[5] During the war, British cryptologists decrypted a vast number of messages enciphered on Enigma. The intelligence gleaned from this source, codenamed "Ultra" by the British, was a substantial aid to the Allied war effort.[6]

Military Enigma machine (in wooden box)

Though Enigma had some cryptographic weaknesses, in practice it was German procedural flaws, operator mistakes, failure to systematically introduce changes in encipherment procedures, and Allied capture of key tables and hardware that, during the war, enabled Allied cryptologists to succeed and "turned the tide" in the Allies' favor.[7][8]

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