Our modern-day Enigma challenge
At a variety of events around the country we have offered people the chance to encrypt their own message on a real Enigma machine, and send it to our team of experts who then attempt to decrypt it.
We launched these Enigma Challenges in 2012, the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, one of the mathematicians behind the Allied success against Enigma. Along with volunteers from Bletchley Park, we re-enacted the process of decrypting messages. Since then, we have taken a machine to various events across the country, including Manchester where Turing worked at the Victoria University from 1948.
Our most recent challenge took place at this year’s Times Cheltenham Science Festival, #CheltSciFest. At our stand in the Discover Zone, members of the public used the Enigma to type out a message, turning their words into encrypted text. Blending the new with the old, they then tweeted the encrypted secret message to the @EnigmaChallenge account.
GCHQ staff hidden elsewhere at the Science Festival picked up the secret message from Twitter and set to work decoding it. They used Cryptoy, a GCHQ app that mimics an Enigma machine. By mirroring the real Enigma settings on Cryptoy, the encrypted messages were easily turned back into English by the GCHQ team.
Late in the evening, the team at the festival decrypted the final message:
And with that thought we went home to prepare for the next Enigma challenge.