Enigma sells on eBay for record price
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at 11:33AM
Malcolm Lambe

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A World War II-era German Enigma cipher machine has sold for a record €55,050($66,560) on eBay.

"Fine example of a WW II Enigma cipher machine in a very good condition and a great history; full functional. Year of construction 1941 by Manufacturer Chiffriermaschinen Gesellschaft Heimsoeth and Rinke, Berlin. The Enigma machine is placed in an oak woodwork case. Three high-quality, all-metal, matched rotors and an Umkehrwalze ?B?. The rotors are continuous numbered; serial numbers has been removed. There are two spare rotors in an additional small wooden box. Plug board is lettered QWERTZU?, wheels numbered 1-26. 100% Original!!! No Copy!!

The Enigma holds an attraction not only to collectors of World War II memorabilia, but also to those fascinated with computers and their history.

"The Enigma is why we have computers today," said a prominent Canadian collector, Ron Watson. "The computer had to be invented to work out the breaking of the cryptology that's used by the Enigma. So the computer you're typing at now actually goes right back to the Enigma machine."

"Breaking the [Enigma] code gave the Allies the advantage of knowing what the enemy was proposing and planning," said Watson. "There's no more important 'spook' item for a museum or private collector to own."

U-Boat's Enigma Cracked With PCs

By Gregg Keizer Courtesy of TechWeb News

Sixty years after the end of World War II, a network of several thousand PCs has cracked a message enciphered with the famous Enigma machine.
The M4 Message Breaking Project, started by Stefan Krah, a German amateur cryptographer, in January, took on three messages intercepted by British code-breakers during WWII, but never cracked by the famous cryptology facility at Bletchley Park.

The code breakers at Bletchley included computing pioneer Alan Turing and used a combination of human intelligence, guesswork, and elementary computing, called "bombs" to decipher messages."

At various times, Bletchley Park could read virtually all Enigma-ciphered messages to and from U-boats at sea, which was instrumental in locating and sinking the submarines, or steering convoys away from U-boat wolfpacks.

The three messages were enciphered using the vaunted Enigma, a machine that relied on a series of user-set rotors and an accompanying plugboard to encrypt text messages before they were radioed from U-boats in the North Atlantic to the German navy's headquarters ashore.

In January, Krah's Web site posted Unix and Windows versions of an open-source client that runs in the background on each machine. As in other distributed-computing projects -- such as the one recently started by the BBC to help model climate change -- the message-breaking chore was broken into small pieces, then parceled out to individual machines that had installed the software.

On Feb. 20, Krah announced that the first message had been broken.

The Enigma-enciphered message, which looked like this:

NCZWV USXPN YMINH ZXMQX SFWXW LKJAH SHNMC
OCCAK UQPMK CSMHK SEINJ USBLK IOSXC KUBHM
LLXCS JUSRR DVKOH ULXWC CBGVL IYXEO AHXRH
KKFVD REWEZ LXOBA FGYUJ QUKGR TVUKA MEURB
VEKSU HHVOY HABCJ WMAKL FKLMY FVNRI ZRVVR
TKOFD ANJMO LBGFF LEOPR GTFLV RHOWO PBEKV
WMUQF MPWPA RMFHA GKXII BG

Actually read, said Krah:

"F T 1132/19 Inhalt:
Bei Angriff unter Wasser gedrückt.
Wabos. Letzter Gegnerstand 0830 Uh
r AJ 9863, 220 Grad, 8 sm. Stosse nach.
14 mb. fällt, NNO 4, Sicht 10.
Looks"

And was translated into English to:

"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].
Looks"

Hartwig Looks, the captain of the U-264, was among the 52 survivors of a depth charge attack by two British sloops, the HMS Woodpecker and HMS Starling, on Feb. 19, 1944.

The second message has been cracked on March 7. It was also transmitted in November 1942 from a submarine in the Atlantic, the U-623. In German, the message read:

"Ausgang FT. 0246/21/203: Auf Geleitkurs 55° nichts gefunden, marschiere befohlenes Qu. Standort Marqu. AJ 3995. SO 4, See 3, 10/10 bedeckt, 28 mb steigend, Nebel, Sicht 1 sm. Schroeder"

Which translated to:

"Outgoing Radio Signal 0246/21/203: Found nothing on convoy's course 55°, [I am] moving to the ordered [naval] square. Position naval square AJ 3995. [wind] south-east [force] 4, sea [state] 3, 10/10 cloudy, [barometer] [10]28 mb [and] rising, fog, visibility 1 nautical mile. Schroeder"

The U-623 was sunk on Feb. 21, 1943 during its second combat patrol by a Royal Air Force (RAF) bomber, which dropped six depth charges over the slow-to-submerge boat. All hands on the U-623 were lost, including its captain, Hermann Schroeder, 31, who had sent the deciphered message three months earlier.

Currently, about 5,000 computers are participating in the project. Users who want to install the distributed-computing client can find it on the M4 Web site.

More on the Engima machine

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