American Enigma Machine?


I'm reading yet another novel about the code breakers of World War II ("Battle of Wits" - it's not particularly good) and it dawns on me that I've never seen any information about the American side of the cryptography battle. We know all about the Enigma machine and the Japanese Purple machine. There are pictures, and graphs and I've seen Java applets which mimic the way that these machines worked and we've heard stories of how the machines were captured and replicated. And we know all about how the people at Bletchley park imported the "bombes" from Poland and used them to break the German U-boat codes, etc.

Great. What about the American and the Russian machines? Surely we weren't using ROT-13 during the war... what were our machines? Is this stuff still classified? Is there a German or Japanese documentary somewhere talking about the machines they captured and the efforts they went through to break the American codes? We know about the battles of Midway and others where our code-breaking skills saved the day, what about the reverse? I've yet to see stories of how our codes were horribly broken and we got beat to a pulp because of it.

Just curious... anyone know of this stuff? It'd be nice to see the full story. And what about today? Obviously we'd never be allowed to know the latest and greatest technologies that are being used, but is all military communications digitally encrypted using standard algorithms? What's the minimum sized key used for military purposes? What about code breaking? Can NSA snap a 128 bit encryption like a dry twig? Where is the rest of the world in this? Is it possible for me to put up a satellite dish on the roof and overhear obscenely complex encrypted communications?

Makes you wonder what the state of the art is and how far behind/ahead the civilians are vs. the military.


Update: Of course the machine I'm thinking about shows up in the next chapter. It was called the SIGABA or ECM Mark II and was supposedly never broken. I'm not sure if I believe that. And not only that, but one is housed less than a mile from my house(!) I'm going to have to go over and check it out.

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