The Enigma Machine – Unit 3 #Primary


For those wanting to go to the next level in regards to encryption could look at the Enigma Machine from World War II.

This coding machine used by the Germans in World War II involved a two step process. Firstly, the machine itself had a keyboard which once pressed ran a signal through a number of variables, including rotors and plugs, which helped to scramble the code. This all depended on a second documented which stipulated how the rotors and plugs were to be set. So in order to break the code you would need both the machine and the current configuration. In some ways this has similarities with private and public encryption, where somebody maybe able to get access to the ‘public’ machine, but unable to make any sense of this without cracking the ‘private’ configuration.

Paul Scruton has visualised how the Enigma Machine worked in this Guardian infographic:

Workflow for how the Enigma Machine worked

While Tom MacWright has created a virtual model of the machine which allows the user to not only configure the machine and enter a message to be encrypted, but also follow the signal as it passes through the various stages.

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