How Long Would It Take To Break Enigma Today?

This is a question that occasionally comes up on discussion forums–how long would it take to break Enigma’s encryption with tools available today?

Back in 2017, cloud-based server provider, DigitalOcean participated in a publicity stunt with Enigma Pattern in which an “artificial intelligence” program cracked an Enigma-encoded message in 13 minutes.

Enigma Pattern, a DigitalOcean client, used a range of modern machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques and methodologies to break the Enigma code in just 13 minutes and for a cost of only £10.

The team, led by Lukasz Kuncewicz, taught the artificial intelligence system to recognise the German language by feeding it Grimm’s fairy tales, and after long hours contemplating them, it started to be more and more confident in its classification.

They then recreated the most sophisticated version of Enigma (four rotors navy type, one pair of plugs), which has 15,354,393,600 password variants, in the programming language Python. Just like the bombe the Polish and British had used, they set it up to test all possible combinations of the password – the only difference being they didn’t limit the number of passwords.

ComputerPhile has a video exploring how one might go about cracking Enigma in 2021 without using an AI.

Enigma Simulator

Someone has created a Windows-based simulator of the German Engima machine.

This software is an exact simulation of the 3-rotor Wehrmacht (Heer and Luftwaffe) Enigma, the 3-rotor Kriegsmarine M3, also called Funkschlussel M, and the famous 4-rotor Kriegmarine M4 Enigma cipher machine, used during World War II from 1939 until 1945. The sim has a very authentic feeling with its hands-on approach: you can select between the three models, actually lift out and insert different rotors, adjust their ring setting and set up the plugboard. The internal wiring of all rotors is identical to those that were used by the Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine. This simulator is therefore fully compatible with the various real Enigma models and you can decrypt authentic wartime messages or encrypt and decrypt your own messages.


Enigma Simulator Screenshot