An Enigma coding machine used by the Nazis to encrypt secret messages during World War Two is coming to Dundee.
Portable and easy to use, the machines' code was so difficult that today some experts argue it was only human errors, from operator mistakes to failing to introduce coding changes, and the capturing of key documents and hardware, that enabled the Allies to crack it.
Solving the Enigma code was so pivotal in the fight against fascism that experts suggest it shortened the war, which killed between 50 and 80 million people, by two years.
After appearing in the recent Benedict Cumberbatch film The Imitation Game, the Enigma machines have been back in the public eye and, later this month, one will be arriving in Dundee as part of a talk at Abertay University.
Above: Nazi General Heinz Guderian during the Battle of France with an Enigma machine.
The Enigma machine will be in Dundee for a talk by Dr Mark Baldwin, an expert on the code-breaking work carried out at during the Second World War.
Dr Natalie Coull, a lecturer in ethical hacking at Abertay University, said that code-breakers of the past and the ethical hackers of today were not so different.
“During the Second World War, the UK government employed a great number of scientists and mathematicians at Bletchley Park who specialised in code-breaking to try and crack the encrypted messages that the Enigma machines generated," she said.
“These experts – including [Cumberbatch's character in The Imitation Game] Alan Turing – created a computer programme that was able to decode most of the Germans’ communications and helped save potentially millions of lives."
Based loosely on the life of Alan Turing, Hollywood film The Imitation Game was nominated for eight Oscars.
“As long as people attempt to encrypt messages, others will attempt to break that encryption," continued Dr Coull.
"The work of the Second World War code-breakers was a precursor to modern day hackers, whose goal is to circumvent a range of security defences to gain access to data or systems.
“Nowadays, ethical hackers are typically employed to test the security of a system against attacks from malicious hackers.
"These ethical hackers look for weaknesses in the system that could be exploited, precisely what happened at Bletchley Park when Turing and his peers identified patterns in the use of the Enigma machines which enabled them to crack the code.”
The Enigma Machine event will take place on Wednesday, September 30, at 6pm in the main lecture theatre at Abertay.
It is being organised by the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT. It is free and open to members of the public, but spaces are limited. Bookings can be made online.
Header image: Tim Gage Flickr.