Encryption has long been valued for securing communications between two parties who do not wish a third to overhear.  The mechanisms for this have steadily become more complex over the years, with one such tool being the Enigma machine.

Though the device gained most of its fame, (or infamy), from its extensive use by the German Forces during World War 2, its creator Arthur Scherbius had been trying to introduce encrypted communications since 1918.  The first two models of Enigma were heavy devices that no one looked twice at; because of their bulk, they were impractical for regular field usage.  But, in 1924, Arthur introduced the glow lamp model; halving the weight and reducing the cost to 1/8th of its predecessor.  International financial and diplomatic agencies sat up and began to place orders, lured by the promise of secure, heavily encrypted messaging.  The fourth model of Enigma was on shelves in 1926, from which the rest of the Enigma product family “tree” was based, and was employed in encrypting nearly all major finance and diplomatic messages internationally at that time.

It took less than a year for this encryption to be broken.

Even the Swiss model that was deliberately rewired as soon as it was imported into Switzerland was swiftly cracked by four separate countries. Then began a game of cat and mouse for Enigma (and its developers); developing harder to crack encryptions, while decryptors evolutionary developed electromechanical machines to run through all possible permutations to discover the cipher key of each message; using brute force processing power.  Through this effort, and some poor operational practices, the encryption provided by Enigma was never truly unbreakable as advertised, and neither have most forms of encryption subsequently.

As encryption is centre stage in Network Security, two questions arise; Ever increasing processing power increases the ability to decrypt ever more complex algorithms with brute-force, try-every-combination solutions: how can the “good guys” avoid this? And as ever more complex algorithms are developed; how can the “good guys” stop the “bad guys” who may be using encryption? This “war of complexity” may continue indefinitely, so the research into encryption continues simultaneously, and indeed unbreakable quantum encryption may provide the answer to the first question.  With regards to the second question, Axial can assist with visibility into encrypted traffic, ensuring malicious activities are identified and managed, while legitimate traffic continues on its way in privacy and unhindered.