The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: Allied Powers

The Logic of Codebreakers Beat Enigma

In the novel The Code Book, Singh argues that German overconfidence in the strength of Enigma was a primary reason why the Germans did not win the war. According to the blog post, “Never Become Lazy and False Genius During War”, the author, Naiksj, suggests that the laziness of the Germans and the way that they never change routine caused them the war. I agree with the author’s argument. The Germans would usually begin the day with a weather report and many of their messages would contain similar phrases. This allowed the codebreakers to notice different patterns in the code.

I believe that the Allied powers succeeded because of the logic of the codebreakers. The Germans used the Enigma machine in the same ways every day, and the codebreakers were logical enough to realize this. Any random person would most likely not be able to notice the patterns in the encoded messages. It takes a level of intelligence to figure out what different patterns can represent. When we were first asked what trait is most important on Top Hat the first time I said creativity. I recently changed my answer to logic because after reading more of the book, I decided that logical reasoning has to be involved in codebreaking. Creativity and luck are both important attributes to codebreaking; however, without logic, those two traits cannot do much. I believe that there needs to be a foundation of logic for a code to be broken.

Never Become Lazy and False Genius During War

Allied Success and German Error

As we know from history, the Allies were successful in cracking the Axis’ encryption methods. A major part of this success, as Singh states, is German overconfidence. Another reason for their success was simply limited ability. The Enigma Machine, as impressive as it was, was restricted by possible plug board settings and scrambler combinations. The limitations of the machine combined with its extreme complexity and German laziness, led to repeated message keys, cillies, and stereotypical messages. As a result, the Allies were able to exploit cribs and this helped lead to the cracking of the Enigma. Allied success in with decryption, relied on German limitation. The Enigma was indeed limited, and this allowed the Allies the chance to break the code. German laziness also helped the Allies exploit the weaknesses in Enigma as they helped make it more predictable and pattern based.

Allied success did not only lie in German error. It also relied deeply on their own coding ability. The Allies had very strong encryption methods, such as the Typex, the SIGABA and the Navajo code talkers. Knowing that they had sound encryption methods allowed them to focus more on the decryption of Axis codes, rather than struggling to encrypt their own codes. Being able to focus their efforts on decryption played a major role on breaking the Enigma and other Axis coding methods. The difference between the Axis and the Allied forces was simply that the Allies had stronger encryption methods. In the end, Allied success was based off of the fact that the Allies won the coding war.

The Carelessness of Repetition

While Enigma appeared unbreakable to the world, it was only a matter of time before a weakness would be discovered. This weakness occurred due to the laziness and tiny errors of the German workers. As a result, the Allied powers exploited this weakness and were able to win the war. The laziness that allowed for this victory was the German’s repetition. One example is that the Germans each day would send their message key twice in the same message to ensure that the receivers enciphered the key word correctly. It was the Germans’ laziness to send the same code twice in the same message because with enough messages from the day, the cryptanalysts had the ability to find patterns within the messages that would grant them access to break the code and decipher messages from that day. With the constant little mistakes, the Allies were able to decipher enough messages in order to gain an advantage against the Germans. Also, although not strongly mentioned in the Singh chapter, the Allied powers’ secrecy also aided in their war effort. Once deciphering certain messages, they were enable to ensure the Germans did not become aware of their advantage and decipherment allowing them to continue to gain knowledge from certain messages without them changing the key from that day. With a combination of the repetition of the messages, the ability to find a pattern, and the secrecy, the Allies were guaranteed the advantage and were able to win the war.

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