All Things Engima Hack Chat

The unusual projects of an eccentric thinker

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
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Simon Jansen will be hosting the Hack Chat on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at noon PST.

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This week's Hack Chat is a bit of a departure for us because our host, Simon Jansen, has tackled so many interesting projects that it's hard to settle on one topic. Simon is a multidisciplinary hacker whose interests run the gamut from building an ammo-can Apple ][ to a literal steampunk Rickroller. How about a Bender Brewer? Or a MAME in a TARDIS? Or perhaps making an old phone play music to restore a car by? Oh, and remember that awesome ASCII animation of Star Wars: Episode IV? That was Simon.

So, a little hard to choose a topic, but we asked Simon to talk a bit about his recent Enigma watches. He has managed to put an electronic emulation of the Enigma cypher machine from World War II into both a wristwatch and, more recently, a pocket watch. They're both gorgeous builds that required a raft of skills to complete. We'll start there and see where the conversation takes us!

Please join us for this Hack Chat, where we'll discuss:

  • Where the fascination with Enigma came from;
  • Tools, techniques, and shop setup;
  • Melding multiple, disparate skill sets; and
  • What sorts of new projects might we see soon?

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Lutetium02/27/2019 at 21:10 0 comments

    Mike12:30 PM
    Right. Did you implement the double-step initially, or only remember it later on?

    Simon Jansen12:30 PM
    The film simplified it a lot. It's not a 'stick in the question - get out the answer' type machine.

    Simon Jansen12:30 PM
    No, i knew about that before I started.

    Simon Jansen12:30 PM
    Building my 3D printed Enigma though really showed me physically how the double stepping works.

    Simon Jansen12:32 PM
    The double step thing is a classic example of a hidden defect in software. If you don't know about it and implement the code without it the code will work most of the time. But at some point you get to it and suddenly it stops working correctly.

    Dan Maloney12:32 PM
    The classic "How did this ever work?" dilemma

    Simon Jansen12:33 PM
    And with an encryption device like this once you hit that bug it's all wrong from that point on.

    Kris Winer12:33 PM
    How did you test you Enigma watch?

    Simon Jansen12:34 PM
    A lot of static code reviewing. Since it uses a lot of look up tables to model the rotors. I knew about the double stepping so I specifically tested around that. And then I used several other Enigma apps I found, on my phone and online to test against.

    Simon Jansen12:34 PM
    So I am assuming they got theirs right too!

    Kris Winer12:35 PM
    Might be interesting to add BLE or LoRa to the watch so as to create a sort of secure walkie-talkie!

    Mike12:35 PM
    I guess not many people have a real Enigma to check against.

    Simon Jansen12:36 PM
    The one change I made between the wristwatch and pocketwatch (apart from adding the RTC to the latter) was to improve the button debouncing.

    Simon Jansen12:37 PM
    Not sure I would ever use it! Some people I with have Apple watches and they tested out some walkie talkie function on that. Once.

    Simon Jansen12:37 PM
    i work with that it

    Tom Nardi12:37 PM
    I'd imagine there are contemporary encoded texts in an archive somewhere that you could decode as a test?

    Simon Jansen12:37 PM
    There is supposedly a real Enigma about a mile from me. Peter Jackson owns one.

    Simon Jansen12:38 PM
    As far as I know it's the only one in New Zealand. I have seen them in museums but never touched one. I am hoping once i finish my 3D printed version I can arrange to see the real one and compare them.

    Boian Mitov12:38 PM
    A friend of mine is making ESP32 based watch and it has WiFi and BLE, but no LoRa

    Boian Mitov12:38 PM
    doing voice over LoRa is probably not really doable as it is intended for small rare packages

    Kris Winer12:38 PM
    Is there anything you would propose to make the Enigma "better"? More secure, simpler, etc. Or was the idea simply to realize the historic Enigma and be done?

    Simon Jansen12:39 PM
    For me just historic. The issues with it are well known and were in WW2 even. The Germans and British both had better encryption devices to work around Enigmas shortcomings.

    Boian Mitov12:39 PM

    Dan Maloney12:39 PM
    I don't know how Peter Jackson would respond, but if I had a real Enigma and someone said "Wanna see my pocket watch Engima?" I'd be all over that.

    Kris Winer12:39 PM
    @Boian Mitov I was thinking of short messages, not voice. you are right not enough bandwidth for voice even with BLE I think.

    Boian Mitov12:40 PM
    @Kris Winer Sure for message LoRa is perfect :-)

    Simon Jansen12:40 PM
    One think I haven't looked into too much is how quickly you could solve Enigma now. You can't brute force it, too many combination even for a massively fast computer, but apparently there are algorithms you can use.

    Simon Jansen12:41 PM
    I worked for Weta Workshop for a while. Peter Jackson isn't involved with that really now but I think it might help me get a foot in the door with him.

    Simon Jansen12:42 PM
    @Boian Mitov What batteries will it use?

    Simon Jansen12:42 PM
    I am not sure what else I could do with Enigma now. Try to make an even smaller one?

    Boian Mitov12:42...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Lutetium02/27/2019 at 21:09 0 comments

    Dan Maloney12:01 PM
    Well let's get started. I want to welcome Simon Jansen to the Hack Chat today. He's he to talk about his awesome Enigma watch builds, but he's got a TON of other hacks under his belt too. So I'm sure we'll have a ton of questions for him.

    Simon, can you tell us a little about yourself?

    Simon Jansen12:01 PM
    Hi, sure. Well, I live in Wellington, New Zealand.

    Boian Mitov12:01 PM
    Hello @Simon Jansen :-)

    Jarrett12:02 PM

    bitluni12:02 PM
    NZ ftw!

    Simon Jansen12:02 PM
    My day job is as a software engineer and I have been a tester and a developer in the past. Now I specialise in test automation.

    Jarrett12:02 PM
    putting this link in here:

    Jarrett12:02 PM



    March 24th, 2015 This is one of the most satisfying projects I have done I think. Mainly because this is a real device and something so historically important. It is a fully functioning Enigma machine you can wear on your wrist. This is a three rotor Enigma machine as used by German Wermacht in WW2 for encoding messages.

    Read this on Asciimation

    Simon Jansen12:02 PM
    And I guess I have always been a science geek/tinkerer.

    Dan Maloney12:03 PM
    @Jarrett - Thanks! Just about to post that myself.

    Simon Jansen12:03 PM
    The Enigma interest is a fairly recent one for me.

    Simon Jansen12:04 PM
    I knew a little about it before since I was always into WW1/WW2 type stuff. And also being a computer scientist I of course knew about Alan Turing. When the Imitation Game film came out I went to see it of course. And was annoyed at all the things I knew were inaccurate in it.

    bitluni12:04 PM

    Dan Maloney12:04 PM
    Enigma fascinates me. The idea that so much hinged on one machine...

    Simon Jansen12:05 PM
    So it got me into finding out how the Turing Welchman Bombe really worked. And to understand that you first need to understand Enigma.

    Dan Maloney12:05 PM
    Was that the one with Benadryl Cumberbund?

    Simon Jansen12:05 PM
    It's an interesting machine since it is both so simple and so complicated at the same time.

    Simon Jansen12:05 PM
    Cumberbund Bitchslap, yes.

    Dan Maloney12:06 PM

    Simon Jansen12:06 PM
    Guy has the most mangleable name and everyone still knows who you mean!

    Dan Maloney12:06 PM
    Love playing with that name

    Simon Jansen12:06 PM
    The film is good, I enjoyed it. But of course it's not a documentary.

    Dan Maloney12:07 PM
    Enigma always impressed me a "just one more thing" build.

    Dan Maloney12:07 PM
    Like they just kept adding stuff until it was sufficiently complicated.

    Simon Jansen12:08 PM
    The Germans were quite arrogant and they were always convinced about it's security.

    ꝺeshipu12:09 PM
    aren't we all today as well?

    Simon Jansen12:09 PM
    I think only Karl Donitz had doubts about it which is why the naval one had extra complications.

    Simon Jansen12:09 PM
    These days I assume most things are insecure if someone really wants to get into it.

    Simon Jansen12:10 PM
    I like Enigma since it is an electromechanical machine and the mechanics add a few quirks into how it behaves.

    ꝺeshipu12:10 PM
    so you make a token effort of "reasonably" securing it by "industry standards" and don't really care more than that

    ꝺeshipu12:10 PM
    and that's exactly what they did back then as well

    Mike12:10 PM
    Absolutely. I guess social engineering was harder when at war with your target.

    Simon Jansen12:10 PM
    I think a lot of the IOT makers don't even do that.

    ꝺeshipu12:11 PM
    well, different people have different ideas about what "reasonable" means

    sfrias112:11 PM
    Hi all

    morgan12:11 PM
    was the Enigma machine German made? I recall thinking it was...

    Read more »

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