Let's hope it wasn't bought by someone in Hollywood...
or there will be a film out next starring Justin Beiber about a group of boy scouts who stole it from a German U-Boat.
A rare German WWII Enigma cipher machine has beat its auction estimate in London, selling for £85,250. Bonhams auctioneers had put a £40,000 to £60,000 estimate on the pristine 1941 oak model coding device, used by the Nazis to encrypt and decode messages sent between the military and their commanders. "Enigma machines come …
these are beautifully made machines and well worth the price this was sold for. The Kommander version that I was lucky enough to play with had 3 types of wood inset in the carrying box to make a nice pattern and had small details like slightly frosted bulbs so that wet hands could unscrew and replace. It even had a custom made oil bottle that set into the carrying case and all the parts worked smoothly. Perhaps they should have concentrated more on the code rather than aesthetics!!
But a lot wrong with the way it was used by operators.
Yes, it was guaranteed not to encode a letter into itself, but other than that it was pretty secure. Obtaining a machine was quite possible even before the war - the Polish sold an early version of them I think. It was knowing the way a machine was set up that was the tricky bit that the Bletchley Park types solved. A lot of that was looking for operator error - looking out for cribs at the start of messages like weather details, using obvious rotor settings (HIT, then LER for the same message) etc.
Also getting the navy list of rotors to use each day was way more useful than getting a machine.
Actually, the mistake they did that allowed the Bletchley park people to crack the messages was the header of each message.
In that header they had the 'offset' of the 'daily settings'. (They started each message using the listed daily settings, but the first symbols told the operator which adjustments he needed to do to decode the rest of the message)
The problem was that not only was this 'offset' at the same place and had the same length every time, but they(being German and 'perfectionists') sent the offset code TWICE, back to back.
If a random 'brute force' attempt gave two identical text strings at that location in the message, you knew you had it right. No need to brute the entire message in the hope of seeing cleartext.
It was actually Polish military intelligence who spotted the mistake, but they didn't have the time to exploit it, so they passed everything on to the French who didn't really know what to do with it and sent it on to England.
Polish cryptographers broke the Enigma, and invented the automatic machinery to do this. This information was passed to the British as Poland fell to the invaders.
Most of the Polish cryptographers were interned, and never let on.
This is well documented in pretty well every serious book about the subject. I understand why the popular press like to publish a patriotic success story even if it is fiction, it is disappointing to see The Register doing the same.
There may be something in this. My father once told me how he had the job of preparing engineering drawings for a Polish Engima machine, based on a sample smuggled out of Poland. He was a 16-year-old apprentice draughtsman at the time. It was a top secret project at a secret location, there were armed guards at the door all the time he was working there, and he was forbidden to ever talk about it on pain of death.
Yes Prince Andrew has stated that " The Enigma codes would not have been broken if it were not for the knowledge of Polish mathematicians " and we even gave the poles a machine for there trouble, but later on....British cryptographers went on to break successively more sophisticated German codes throughout the war.
It would be interesting to know why the Germans never found out that their codes were broken. Many U-boat crews paid that with their lives. After 2 years of "bad luck" somebody should have drawn the conclusion that their transmissions were overheard ?. It would have taken only two or three messages to test if the enemy would respond.
There was an awful lot of double-bluff going on. Letting Coventry be bombed to bits was the most notable one but there were plenty of others: One tactic was to thoroughly depth-charge an area of sea that was presumed to be empty. This had the the effect of a) suggesting faulty intelligence at work and b) the co-ordinates so bombed, which they made sure it was within sight of German intelligence, could be used as a fresh crib to break a new day's codes.
The air raid by the RAF on Caen killed over 2000 French people. The only explanation I can imagine is that it was in reaction to a German dummy which if refused would show that we had other more reliable sources.
Plenty of our own people were allowed to die because the secret had to be kept.
Model launched the Bastoigne attack assuming that his codes were broken. That is why it was such a nuisance, no one knew it was coming. Even after his initial success the Germans generally still did not comprehend.
At Arnhem Model was waiting. It is understood that he told his Panzers to take the tracks off their vehicles so that he could report to Hitler, using the high level Siemens system broken by Colossus, that he had no armour. He knew that if he was honest the Fuhrer would steal them from him and throw them away. When the airborne assault came and was defeated that should have triggered German doubt about their codes.
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