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Tresha Klinkhamer

Dr. Manuel Welhan

Math 415

Final Project

The Enigma

Although the Enigma machine was used mainly in the Second World War, and sparsely

for thirty or so years after, its origins lie in the end of the First World War. Most messages

during that time sent were via radio, which allowed for faster communication, but also enabled

messages to be more readily intercepted by the enemy. Such messages then had to be encrypted,

however the more complex the encryption system was, the more likely those encrypting could

commit an error with potentially disastrous results. With that in mind, after the war, Arthur

Scherbius created the Enigma encryption machine, which he finished in 1923.

The original machine created was the civilian version of the machine. It contained: a

slightly augmented keyboard which swapped the positions of Z and Y, and moved the P down to

the bottom row; three rotors, each with twenty-six possible settings and a single notch which

signified the rotation of the next rotor when the letter it was at passed the encryption spot; a

reversing drum (or reflector, depending on the text you use), which had twenty-six spring loaded

contacts connected in pairs; and a set of twenty-six glowlamps, set up the same as the augmented

keyboard. When complete, the machine weighed somewhere around thirty pounds. The military

version of the machine included a plugboard, but sources vary on the number of connections

available for the plugboard; some suggest there were six, others ten, others thirteen, but it was

known that each plug connected a pair of letter. The addition of the plugboard meant that if the

Klinkhamer 2

letter A was wired to the letter B, that when A was typed, it went into the Enigma as a B, and

vice versa.

The rotors function much the same way as an odometer in a car. The first rotor rotates

with each letter entered into the machine, and when the notch passed the spot of encryption, the

second rotor rotated which meant the first time the second rotor moved was likely to occur

before the twenty-sixth letter of the message was encrypted, it just depended on the location of

the notch. Then, the third rotor rotated when the notch on the second rotor passed the encryption

spot.

The way the machine functioned was, when a letter of the plaintext was typed on the

keyboard, the first rotor rotated, then electricity traveled through each individual rotor, then into

the reversing drum, then back through the rotors in a different path than before, and the

electricity then lit the glowlamp that corresponded with the ciphertext letter. This setup had each

individual letter changing a total of nine times before the ciphertext letter was outputted. The

military version of the same machine had each letter change eleven times because of the addition

of the plugboard. Later, the number of rotors was increased from three to five. The idea here was

that, while the machine still only used three rotors, there were five rotors to choose from. The

German navy had four rotors to use up until the transition, when it upgraded to eight possible

rotors.

The machine implemented a combination of the substitution cipher and the affine cipher

when encrypting. With three rotors, the Enigma had a total of 105456 initial settings (26 possible

initial settings for all three rotors and six possible arrangements for the rotors in the machine.)

For the five rotor version, there were 1054560 initial settings for the machine (where the three

rotors only have six possible arrangements, the five rotors have sixty possible arrangements, thus

Klinkhamer 3

the four rotors would allow for twenty-four possible combinations and the eight rotors would

allow for three hundred and thirty-six possible combinations.) All total, with the possible settings

of the plugboard, the reversing drum, and the rotors, the machine had trillions of possible setups

to use, so its understandable why the Germans believed the machine secure enough to use.

The security for the Enigma relies heavily on keeping the initial arrangement and initial

settings of the rotors, the settings of the plugs on the plugboard, and the internal wiring of the

reversing drum secret. One feature of the Enigma is that, if an X was encrypted as a Y, the Y

could be decrypted as an X at the exact same setting of all components. So, if the one decrypting

the message used the exact same initial position as the one who encrypted the message, all that

person then had to do was type the ciphertext into the machine and the output would be the

plaintext.

The cracking of the system of the Enigma came with deductions based on captured

ciphertexts, however, since the rotation of the rotors changed the substitution for each character

of the message much like an affine cipher would, frequency analysis of the ciphertexts would not

work. It was also possible for cryptoanalysts to eliminate several possibilities for decryption

since it was not possible for a letter to be encrypted as itself.

It was in 1932 that the civilian version of the Enigma was cracked by three Polish

cryptologists: Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski, and Jerzy Rycki. They used the fact that, in

the German Navy, the operator of the machine chose a sequence of three letters as a key for the

initial settings of the rotors, and typed them twice using a default initial setup gotten from a

guide (the German Army and Air Force simply used the default settings instead of using the key

system since the defaults changed every day and the guide changed every month) that listed the

default setup for each day, before setting the rotors to the positions of the key and encrypting the

Klinkhamer 4

message from there. (The German Navy had copies of this guide with water soluble ink so if the

ship went down, the guide couldnt be salvaged by the Allies.) The idea was, that the one

decrypting the message would know the default initial setup, and use that to get the key, which

would then be used to decrypt the actual message. It was, however, the double typing of the key

that allowed the three cryptologists to crack the Enigma.

The duplication of the key allowed for a sort of frequency analysis using permutations. If

the key was encrypted as ABCDEF, the cryptoanalysts would then pair up the permutations as

AD, BE, and CF. So, for example, if the letter X coded to Y for permutation A and Z for

permutation D, then you would have the permutations XY and XZ which would carry Y to Z

giving you YZ. With enough data, the rotations of each rotor could be broken up into a set of

disjoint cycles of the alphabet, so for the example, the first two entries of one cycle would by YZ

which then allowed them to find the cycle lengths for each of the rotors, as well as allowing them

to know what the rotors would encrypt each letter to using the permutations and cycles. It has

been noted by the original cryptologists that when a cycle length appears, it will appear an even

number of times. So if there is a cycle length of five, there will be another cycle length of five as

well.

Using this method, the three cryptologists completed a catalog of all 105456 possible

initial settings and included all possible cycle lengths for the corresponding permutations for AD,

BE, and CF. With this catalog, ciphertexts for a given day could be used to deduce cycle lengths,

which in turn narrowed the possible initial settings for the rotors to a small number. Then, with

the correct initial settings for the rotor, the plugboard became nothing more an easily broken

substitution cipher.

Klinkhamer 5

In 1938, the Germans adopted a modified method of transmitting the keys, inserting

dummy letters to make it harder for the key to be found, however, it only took a modification of

the previous technique to break that as well.

It was this information and techniques used that was transferred to the British in 1939,

two months before the German invasion of Poland. Then, a man by the name of Alan Turing

created a machine called the bombe (named after a Polish machine called the bomba which

functioned differently and could not break German naval codes thought it could break army and

air force codes) which was used to find the daily keys and the plugboard orientation and could do

so in about two hours. It found the daily keys using the permutation way mentioned above, but it

found the plugboard orientation through a process of elimination, so it assumed one connection

then deduced the next and the next that would follow after until it came up with a contradiction,

then all the ones it had gone through would be cancelled as possibilities and it would try again.

The reason this worked is because the Allies were able to find words that would likely be used in

messages, such as the fact the Germans sent out a weather report every morning, and the

machine was able to use those words in to find the plugboard orientation.

The Germans, as well as upping the amount of rotors used in the machine, began rewiring

the plugboards once and day until 1944, when they were forced to begin rewiring it three times a

day for the sake of security.

Once the war was over, the British sold Enigma machines to many of its former colonies,

since the knowledge of it being cracked was not known. It wasnt until nearly thirty years later

that it became known that the system had been cracked, at which time Im assuming people

stopped using that particular machine.

Klinkhamer 6

Works Cited

158,962,555,217,826,360,000. Dir. Numberphile. YouTube.com. N.p., 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 15

Dec. 2014.

Churchhouse, Robert. Codes and Ciphers. Port Chester, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press,

2002. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 16 December 2014.

Flaw in the Enigma Code. Dir. Numberphile. YouTube.com. N.p., 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Dec.

2014.

Trappe, Wade, and Lawrence C. Washington. "Enigma." Introduction to Cryptography: With

Coding Theory. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006. 50-55.

Print.

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