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Cryptology buffs who can't swing the cost of a vintage Enigma machine have free-of-charge options for enciphering at home like a WWII-era German intelligence officer.

Cora Nucci

April 14, 2006

1 Min Read

Cryptology and history buffs who missed a chance to buy a World War II-era Enigma machine on eBay last month have the option of building their own codemaking machine at home, from a kit.

The Enigma-E Kit sells for about $210 U.S., and is available through the Bletchley Park Web site. Bletchley Park is the British National Codes Centre, where allied forces broke the German Enigma code during the Second World War. Collectors with more means can source original Enigma machines, rotors, and other parts, online at various Web sites. The machine auctioned on eBay sold for more than $30,000, substantially higher price than other recorded sales dating to the mid-1990s. Cryptologists operating on a shoestring can produce Enigma-quality ciphers by downloading and printing a simple one-page PDF file. The paper version of the device "is compatible with the original 3-rotor German Enigma used during World War II," says its maker, Mike Koss, on his Web site. A more sophisticated --but also free -- version, Enigma Simulator v5.0 is also available. The cryptographic strength of the Enigma machines is legendary. Two of three messages enciphered by German forces more than 60 years were deciphered only last month. A distributed computing project led by an amateur German cryptologist finally cracked the codes.

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