Breaking Enigma

A bombe run involved a cryptanalyst first obtaining a crib — a section of plaintext that was thought to correspond to the ciphertext. Finding cribs was not at all straightforward; it required considerable familiarity with German military jargon and the communication habits of the operators. However, the codebreakers were aided by the fact that the Enigma would never encrypt a letter to itself. This helped in testing a possible crib against the ciphertext, as it could rule out a number of cribs and positions, where the same letter occurred in the same position in both the plaintext and the ciphertext. This was termed a crash at Bletchley Park.

Once a suitable crib had been decided upon, the cryptanalyst would produce a menu for wiring up the bombe to test the crib against the ciphertext. The following is a simplified explanation of the process of constructing a menu. Suppose that the crib is ATTACKATDAWN to be tested against a certain stretch of ciphertext, say, WSNPNLKLSTCS. The letters of the crib and the ciphertext were compared to establish pairings between the ciphertext and the crib plaintext. These were then graphed as in the diagram. It should be borne in mind that the relationships are reciprocal so that A in the plaintext associated with W in the ciphertext is the same as W in the plaintext associated with A in the ciphertext. At position 1 of the plaintext-ciphertext comparison, the letter A is associated with W, but A is also associated with P at position 4, K at position 7 and T at position 10. Building up these relationships into such a diagram provided the menu from which the bombe connections and drum start positions would be set up.

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                     How Enigma works

 

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