An Enigma machine refers to a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used in the 20th century for enciphering and deciphering secret messages.
The original Enigma was invented by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I. According to Wikipedia, early models were used commercially from the early 1920s, although they were later adopted by a number of militaries and governments around the world.
Designed by the ST-Geotronics crew, the Open Enigma (M4) Project – powered by an Atmel-based Arduino Mega (ATmega1280) – first surfaced towards the end of 2013.
The project, which only recently hit Kickstarter, has already managed to exceed its original crowdfunding goal of $20,000. Stretch goals are now in effect, allowing the ST-Geotronics team to focus on delivering Enigma software enhancements (M3 emulation, Telex behavior, Cloud connectivity) and a new hardware version that uses the physical Plugboard.
“Even in today’s world of fast computers that can encrypt at exceptional levels like 68 bits, 128 bits, 256 bits, etc used for WEP, WPA, or even AES, the Enigma still offers decent and capable encryption capabilities. Any three of the 8 numbered rotors can be placed in any of the three positions on the shaft,” an ST-Geotronics rep explained on the project’s official Kickstarter page.
“There are 8x7x6 = 336 possible sequences of 3 rotors [and] 26 possible internal settings on each of the three rotors. This gives 26 to the third power = (17,576) possible settings. There are 26 possible external settings for each of the three rotors. This gives 26 to the third power = (17,576) possible settings. There are anywhere from 0 to 10 plug wires which can be inserted into any of the 26 sockets, [offering] roughly 532,985,208,200,576 possible settings. Combining these possibilities give us a total of 26,672,901,348,424,004,787,290,112 or about 10 to the 26 power possible starting settings.”
ST-Geotronics says it is committed to producing a goal of 100 units by hand, before shifting to less expensive factory manufactured units.
Interested in learning more? You can check out our original write up on Bits & Pieces here and the project’s official Kickstarter page here.