Enigma @Home

By Deane Barker on February 27, 2006

Distributed computing cracks Enigma code: This is very cool.

More than 60 years after the end of World War II, a distributed computing project has managed to crack a previously uncracked message that was encrypted using the Enigma machine.

[…] In breaking the first message, the project organizers used so-called brute force to test the encrypted message against all possible set-up configurations of the four-rotor Enigma. However, this configuration did not include the machine’s plugboard, which allowed the operator to swap two letters around before they were processed by the machine’s rotors.

The message turned out to be:

Radio signal 1851/19/252: “F T 1132/19 contents: Forced to submerge during attack. Depth charges. Last enemy position 0830h AJ 9863, (course]) 220 degrees, (speed) 8 knots. (I am) following (the enemy). (Barometer) falls 14 mb, (wind) nor-nor-east, (force) 4, visibility 10 (nautical miles).”

The best description of the Enigma machine I’ve ever read was in Simon Singh’s “The Code Book”. The entire book is a page-turner, and his description of how Enigma works is as clear and concise as I’ve ever read.

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  1. Timing is everything. I literally just finshed the chapters on the Enigma in “The Code Book.” It is absolutely a great book. I found it on accident. I went to the library looking for a book called “Codes, Ciphers and Other Cryptic and Clandestine Communication: 400 Ways to Send Secret Messages from Hieroglyphs to the Internet” by Fred B. Wrixon (which is also a great book) and found The Code Book instead. The author really has a knack for telling history in a very captivating way. The chapters are long, but it’s still hard to put down. It really is fascinating how cryptography has influenced the course of history since just about the start of history! Fun stuff.

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