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AI that broke the Enigma code costs $13.50

Posted: 5 December 2017 | By Charlie Moloney

The Enigma code could only be sent and broken by use of the Enigma Machine in WWII

An artificial intelligence (AI) system that broke the Enigma code can break a password containing under 20 characters in 20 minutes and can be rented for less than $20.

In a private demonstration at the Imperial War Museum, London, on Friday last week, an AI system broke the Enigma code – the secret language which Alan Turing worked to decipher in World War II – in 12 minutes and 50 seconds.

Years of research and analysis were necessary to break the Enigma code with this machine during WWII

The system had to discover that the randomly generated string 3114 251521 18514 208919? was code for ‘German is a beautiful language’.

The AI had two weapons to achieve the task:

– Raw processing power, which allowed it to try billions of possible combinations of letters in minutes.

– An understanding of the German language, which allowed it to estimate the probability of a combination of letters being German.

AI gets Grimm reading

To learn German, the AI had been taught via neural networks to study Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Explaining why Grimm’s tales had been chosen, Lukasz Kuncewicz, Head Data Scientist at Enigma Pattern, the company which created the AI, said, “You need a good source of language. And why not? It’s fun”.

Lukasz told Access AI that the system was shown general examples of the German language from the book and then shown random letters, and by a process of iteration it could begin to identify when a piece of text was written in German.

When asked if this AI system had developed any eccentricities from only studying the gory folk stories, Lukasz said that it doesn’t know modern words.

The machine that can crack your codes

A screen displaying a visualisation of the combinations the AI was trying. In this picture it had attempted 454,691,120 combinations and was 3.97% complete.

After the AI system cracked the Enigma code, Lukasz explained to us that it can crack any password which contains under 20 characters in around 20 minutes.

When asked whether this is a significant improvement on the speed of technology that existed several years earlier, Lukasz said that this capability has been available for the last decade, but that the price would have been in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“To get the technology we needed to give this demonstration today cost us £10 ($13.50) from DigitalOcean [a cloud infrastructure provider]”, Lukasz said, “It is much cheaper than it was because of cloud technology, cheaper graphic processing units, and the option to rent this capability for an hour at a time”.

Lukasz argued that price of technology will continue to decrease because of Moore’s Law, the projection that processing power will become twice as good at half the cost every two years, although some analysts have declared the end of Moore’s law.

Operating an original Enigma machine that was used during WWII

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