This Is our Village

Monday, April 29, 2013



Enigma machine’s Hebrew secret

A new exhibit in Jerusalem unveils a famed Nazi encryption device that was converted into Hebrew

February 28, 2013, 5:05 pm 2               
An Enigma machine on display at Bletchley Park. (photo credit: CC BY SA Flickr/Tim Gage)
An Enigma machine on display at Bletchley Park. (photo credit: CC BY SA Flickr/Tim Gage)
A new exhibit in Jerusalem has revealed for the first time an unusual variation on one the most famous encryption devices in history — a Hebrew text version of the World War II-era German Enigma machine.
The Jerusalem Bloomfield Science Museum this week opened its CAPTCHA exhibit to mark 70 years since the development of the electronic computer. Among the various artifacts on display is the curious example of an enigma machine.
The device was one of several acquired by the Israel Defense Forces in the years after the establishment of the state in 1948, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Thursday. The machines were tinkered with to adapt the keys to accommodate the 22 letters used in the Hebrew alphabet and then pressed into service to keep the new state’s military secrets under wraps.
However, apparently unbeknownst to Israel’s military, the seemingly secure Enigma machine codes had already been cracked in what was one of the most closely guarded secrets of WWII.
The Enigma machine was invented at the end of World War I and used by the German military from the 1930s onward to encrypt messages.
With trillions of possible combinations, its codes were considered impregnable. However, following on earlier breakthroughs by Polish intelligence services, in 1939 a British team led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Hall finally managed to break the Enigma machine codes, giving the allies an inestimable advantage over the Nazis.
The success was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war and afterwards, as Britain encouraged former colonies that had gained their independence to use the enigma machines for their own military secrets.
Turing’s accomplishment was only made public in the 1970s, by which time the machines were obsolete.
The science museum exhibit celebrates the various stages in the development of computers and gets its unusual name from the acronym “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart,” which is a variety of methods utilized in computing to verify that a user is, in fact, human. Internet users will be familiar with common CAPTCHA tests on websites that ask for coded numbers to be typed as confirmation before setting up some accounts.
Dave Israel


Lanny Howe said...

A long time ago I read a book about how the Allies broke the German enigma code and used this knowledge to great advantage during World War II. I should reread the book. They had to be very careful to not take too much short-term advantage of the code breaking so that the Germans realized their code had been compromised. Then I think I read a book about how the US broke the Japanese secret code--was it called Purple or something like this?--so we could read the messages of both Axis powers.

elaineb said...

Are you watching the Bletchley Circle on PBS Sunday nights, homely and gory! The Bletchley Circle is a 2012 television mystery drama miniseries, set in 1952, about four women who used to work as codebreakers at Bletchley Park. A series of murders takes place that seems to have a pattern to it; the police seem to overlook the pattern, so the women start investigating themselves. I do not see it on Channel 1.

Dave Israel said...

Hi Lanny,
April 29, 2013 at 11:33 AM,

One of the better books on the British effort against Enigma was called "The ULTRA Secret"! This title deriving from the fact that the decrypts were referred to as ULTRA.

The key technical breaks on Enigma were by one Alan Turing at GCHQ a real genius by any standard, look him up!

Purple (there it is again)is yet another matter. this was the cryptanalytic community covername for the Japanese Diplomatic cipher system. The covename for the decrypts were called simply MAGIC.

While engineering implementation was different, the Purple machine was mathematically equivalent to a 4 rotor Enigma. Working this out will require that you do a little research.

The key players such as William F. Friedman and Frank Rowlett ended up with the National Security Agency.
These were pioneering giants in the field.

I had the distinct honor of meeting both men when starting my career at NSA; they were "living history"

Do a bit of research on these folks, their work saved MANY lives and much treasure.

Dave Israel