Technology News

Brings you recent Technology news from digital life;Internet, Gadgets, Blogs, Electronics and more...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Online amateurs crack Nazi codes


Three German ciphers unsolved since World War II are finally being cracked, helped by thousands of home computers.

The codes resisted the best efforts of the celebrated Allied cryptographers based at Bletchley Park during the war.

Now one has been solved by running code-breaking software on a "grid" of internet-linked home computers.

The complex ciphers were encoded in 1942 by a new version of the German Enigma machine, and led to regular hits on Allied vessels by German U-boats.

Allied experts initially failed to deal with the German adoption in 1942 of a complex new cipher system, brought in at the same time as a newly upgraded Enigma machine.

The advancement in German encryption techniques led to significant Allied losses in the North Atlantic throughout 1942.

The three unsolved Enigma intercepts were published in a cryptography journal in 1995 and have intrigued enthusiasts ever since.

Although assumed to have little historical significance, they are thought to be among just a handful of German naval ciphers in existence still to be decoded.

Exponential growth

The latest attempt to crack the codes was kick-started by Stefan Krah, a German-born violinist with an interest in cryptography and open-source software.

Mr Krah told the BBC News website that "basic human curiosity" had motivated him to crack the codes, but stressed the debt he owed to veteran codebreaking enthusiasts who have spent years researching Enigma.

He wrote a code-breaking program and publicised his project on internet newsgroups, attracting the interest of about 45 users, who all allowed their machines to be used for the project.

Mr Krah named the project M4, in honour of the M4 Enigma machine that originally encoded the ciphers.

There are now some 2,500 separate terminals contributing to the project, Mr Krah said.

"The most amazing thing about the project is the exponential growth of participants. All I did myself was to announce it in two news groups and on one mailing list."

Nevertheless, in little over a month an apparently random combination of letters had been decoded into a real wartime communication.

In its encrypted form the cipher makes no sense at all, reading as follows:

"NCZW VUSX PNYM INHZ XMQX SFWX WLKJ AHSH NMCO CCAK UQPM KCSM HKSE INJU SBLK IOSX CKUB HMLL XCSJ USRR DVKO HULX WCCB GVLI YXEO AHXR HKKF VDRE WEZL XOBA FGYU JQUK GRTV UKAM EURB VEKS UHHV OYHA BCJW MAKL FKLM YFVN RIZR VVRT KOFD ANJM OLBG FFLE OPRG TFLV RHOW OPBE KVWM UQFM PWPA RMFH AGKX IIBG"

Unencrypted and translated into English, the message suddenly comes to life:

"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]."

A check against existing records confirmed that the message was sent by Kapitanleutnant Hartwig Looks, commander of the German navy's U264 submarine, on 25 November 1942.

Source

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home