The Enigma machine was originally designed in the early 20th century, and was used by Germany in the Second World War to encrypt its military messages. With billions of possible password variants in the machine's most advanced form, cracking the code took the expertise of specialists like those at Bletchley Park - but decryption has come a long way since then.
Enigma was first broken by the Polish Cipher Bureau in 1932, and appropriately another Pole - Lukasz Kuncewicz of Enigma Pattern - led the team teaching the artificial intelligence in this demonstration.
Enigma Pattern utilised both machine learning and AI, plus cloud servers from DigitalOcean, to break the Enigma code live at an event in central London today, taking 13 minutes and costing just £10.
Kuncewicz and his team taught the AI to recognise German by inputting Grimm's Fairy Tales (which could have ended badly if it had been a bit smarter), and recreated the four-rotor plugboard version of the Enigma machine virtually, using Python.
The team set up their bombe (code breaker) to test all possible combinations of the password, just like the original models. The AI system, connected to the bombe's output, was able to recognise anything resembling the German language, and would then flag it as a decoded message.
However, there was a problem: using just one bombe would have taken weeks. DigitalOcean was able to spin up 2,000 new cloud machines on-demand, and that power enabled the code to be cracked in 13 minutes, testing 41 million combinations every second (about 32 billion total)
Lukasz said: "Enigma code is a complex system and decoding the message takes time as does checking to tell if the decrypted message is German. When you have billions of possible passwords to try, it all adds up to days. If we had used the power of only one machine, it would have taken two weeks to go through all of the possible combinations."
Alex Jaimes, head of R&D at DigitalOcean said: "Things have moved on massively since the original Enigma machine was decrypted, but the fascinating element to Enigma Pattern's work is how they've used the power of AI and cloud computing to give a glimpse into the future of everyday computing."
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