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Cipher machines and cryptographic methods

The German Enigma cipher machine is arguably the world's most well-known cipher machine, mainly because of the vital role it played during WWII. There are however many other interesting cipher machines, such as the mechanical series from Boris Hagelin and the Russian M-125 Fialka.

This page shows a number of interesting historical cipher machines. Some of the entries refer to a whole family of machines, whilst others are listed separately. Click any of the images on this page for further information. If you are looking for a specific machine or model, you might want to check the index first. It is also recommended to check the Glossary of crypto terminology.

We are always interested in acquiring additional historical cipher machines for our collection. If you have anything to offer, please contact us.

 Mission Statement
 Index of machines and manufacturers
Popular cipher machines
Discret, an early typewrite with cipher capabilities
Enigma cipher machines
SIGABA cipher machines
British wheel-based TYPEX cipher machines
M-209 (Hagelin) US Army, WWII
Siemens T-52 Geheimschreiber
Lorenz SZ-40/42 cipher machine
Schlüsselgerät 41 (Hitlermühle)
Swiss NEMA (replacement for Enigma K)
Hagelin cipher machines
Fialka M-125 cipher machines
Transvertex HC-9
KL-7 rotor-based cipher machine (USA)
Race (KL-51)
DUDEK StG-1 (T-352 / T-353) one-time tape cipher machine developed in Poland
FS-5000 (Harpoon) radio station with crypto for stay-behind organisations
Georges Lugagne 'Le Sphinx' (1930)
IronKey secure USB mass storage device

ANT Nachrichtentechnik (formerly: Telefunken, now: Selex)
Aristo slide rulers
Ascom / Autophon / Zellweger
AT&T, later: Lucent, later: General Dynamics
Brown, Boveri and Company
Robert Bosch GmbH
Compumatica cryptographic products
Crypto AG (Hagelin), Switzerland
Datotek Inc (Texas, USA)
Fox-IT cryptographic products
General Dynamics
Gretacoder cipher machines by Gretag
Harris Corporation
Rudolf Hell cipher machines
ITT Industries Inc.
Georges Lugagne codebooks and cipher systems
Philips subsidary MEL (UK)
Mils Electronic (also: Mils Elektronik and Reichert Elektronik)
Motorola encryption devices
OMI-Nistri (Italia)
Cipher machines by Philips Usfa/Crypto
State-owned company for Post, Telegraph and Telephone (Netherlands)
Rohde & Schwarz
Racal encryption devices
RanData Corporation
Raytheon Company
Safenet Inc.
Secunet AG
Siemens and Halske
Skanti DS-6001 digital voice scrambler
Standard Telefon og Kabelfabrik
SEC-13 crypto unit
Tait mobile and handheld voice scrambler radios
Technical Communications Corporation
AEG Telefunken
TDS-2004M front panel
Teltron GmbH
Thales (formerly: Thomson CSF, formerly: STK)
Transvertex HC-9
Tele Security Timmann (TST)
Utimaco GmbH
Zellweger (Switzerland)

Cipher machines developed in/for the UK
Cipher machines developed in/for the USA
Cipher machines from the former USSR (Russia)
Cipher machines developed in (West) Germany (BRD)
Cipher machines and methods of the former DDR (East Germany)
Swiss cipher systems
Encryption devices developed in the former Yugoslav Republic
Encryption device developed or used in Russia (Russian Federation)
The Netherlands (Holland)

Description of the Vernam Cipher
Mixer-type cipher machines using the Vernam Principle
Rotor based cipher machines
Voice encryption units
Key transfer devices (fill gun)
Electronic Message Units
Hardware Security Modules
Secure telephones
Manual cipher methods
The unbreakable One-Time Pad (OTP)
Codebooks and tables
Toys with (hidden) cryptographic features
Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre during WWII
Breaking Enigma with the Polish BOMBA, the British BOMBE and the US BOMBE.
Heath Robinson, a machine that was used to break the Lorenz cipher machine
The first programmable electronic computer that was used during WWII to break the German Lorenz Cipher
Cyclometer (Cyklometr) a device for helping to break the enigma traffic, made by Rejewski
Washington-Moscow Hotline
Other hotlines between countries
There is no such thing as the Enigma. In fact, Enigma is the name of a series of cipher machines, of which only some are compatible with each other. Enigma machines were used by the German Army during WWII.

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In 1921, Boris Hagelin developed his first cipher machine. Since then, he produced a wide range of machines, of which the M-209 (shown here) is probably the most well-known one. After WWII, the company (Crypto AG) developed numerous other machines and models, and is still in business today.

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M-209-A opened and ready for use

Shortly after WWII, the Russians developed an advanced cipher machine that is clearly based on the Enigma-design. It contains many improvements over the Enigma, such as irregular wheel stepping, more wheels (10) a coding card and a built-in printer.

Furthermore, one of the major flaws of the Enigma (i.e. that a letter can not be enciphered into itself) has been fixed in this machine.

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Like many other European electronics companies, Siemens developed a number of cipher machines over the years. The most famous one is probably the T-52, also known as the Geheimschreiber, that was used by the German High Command during WWII.

After the war, Siemens developed mixer-machines (based on the Vernam principle) and later electronic cipher equipment.

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During WWII, the German High Command used this advanced Lorenz SZ-40 cipher machine for messages at the highest level. It was an add-on for teleprinter systems (telex) and was connected between the teleprinter and the line.

Codenamed TUNNY by the codebreakers at Bletechley Park, it proved to be a real challenge to them. Eventually, the Lorenz machine was broken by means of Colossus (see below).

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Colossus was arguably the first programmable electronic computer. In any case it was invented well before the American ENIAC. Colossus was developed during WWII for the sole purpose of breaking the Lorenz SZ-40/42 machine that was used by the German High Command.

After the war, GPO engineer Tommy Flowers, who designed the machine, was not recognised for his work due to the official secrets act.

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Colossus seen from the right

In the 2nd half of the 20th century, Dutch defence electronics manufacturer Philips Usfa, developed and produced a wide range of crypto machines. Some of these were proprietary, but others were compatible with NATO standards.

Philips Usfa/Crypto was closed down in 2003.

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During WWII, the Swiss developed the NEMA (Neue Maschine) as a replacement for their Enigma K machines, after they had discovered that both the Allies and the Germans were reading their traffic.

The machine closely resembles the Enigma and has even inhertited some of its weaknesses.

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Transvertex was a small company in Sweden that produced cipher machines, similar to Hagelin. In order to prevent patent infringment however, the machines had to be based on a different principle.

The HC-9 (shown here) is the most well-known Transvertex machine.

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Gretag, or Gretacoder Data Systems was a manufacturer of crypto equipment, based in Regensdorf, Switzerland. It was led by Dr. Edgar Gretener who was not only a direct competitor of Hagelin, but also co-operated with them on a number of projects. Over the years, Gretag produced a range of commercial, industrial and military cipher machines.

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Gretacoder 805

Although the German inventor Rudolf Hell is mainly known for his famous HELL-Schreiber and his range of graphical equipment, it is little known that in the years following WWII, he built a number of mechanical cipher machines.

The machines were built under license of Boris Hagelin for the German Army (Bundeswehr).

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HELL H-54 cipher machine

OMI   wanted
OMI was an opto-mechanical factory in Italy, who had specialised in stereo photography and cartography. Towards the start of WWII, they were asked to develop a high-end cipher machine, similar to the German Enigma.

The first machine was the OMI Alpha, which was released in 1939, followed by the Criptograph in 1954 and the Cryptograph-CR in 1958.

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OMI Alpha

Over the years, the USA produced many different cipher machines. In some cases, these machines were developed by the NSA (National Security Agency), but sometimes they were bought 'of the shelf' from existing manufacturers.

As it is sometimes unclear who the developer or the manufacturer of a machine is, we've listed them separately.

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Like the USA, the former Sovjet Union, or USSR, has a long cryptographic history. Over the years they produced a wide range of cipher machines of which only little is known.

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M-130 meteorologic cipher machine

Before, during and after WWII, some interesting cipher machines were developed in the UK, the most famous of which is probably the war-time Typex, which was effectively an improved copy of the German Enigma machine.

Other wheel-based cipher machines were used as well, and electronic crypto devices were developed by manufacturers such as Racal.

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Interior of the Typex Mark 22

During the Cold War, the former Yugoslav Republic, developed a range of radio sets and encryption products, most of which were built by the television factory Rudi Čajavec in Banja Luka.

The devices range from simple voice scramblers to advanced wide-band and narrow-band digital encryption devices.

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Telsy is a manufacturer of voice and IP (internet) encryption devices in Turin (Italy). The company started in 1971 and is still in business today (2012). During the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Telsy was a major supplier of voice encryption devices for the police in many European countries.

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Using the acoustic coupler

Tadiran was a large electronics company in Israel, that developed and produced a lot of radio and COMSEC equipment for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and the Department of Defense (DoD) of more than 40 countries.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tadiran produced a series of COMSEC cryptographic devices that could be integraded with the combat radio networks of that era. Some of these devices have been in use until recently.

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Close-up view of some of the controls of the SEC-15

Racal was a British manufacturer of military radio electronics such as radios and cryptographic equipment. It was founded in 1950 and was once the 3rd largest electronics company in the UK. Racal was sold to the French company Thomson-CSF (now Thales) in 2000.

Over the years, Racal produced many different communications and cryptographic devices, with a varying degree of sophistication.

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Front panel of the MA-4224

STK, or Standard Telefon og Kabelfabrik, was a telephone, electronics and cable company in Oslo (Norway). They are commonly referred to as Standard. STK was establised in 1915 and was later owned by ITT, Alcatel and finally Thales.

They are best known for the ETCRRM mixer machine and the electronic RACE (KL-51) cipher machine.

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KL-51 (RACE) with open lid and expanded paper holder

For many years, US-based electronics manufacturer Motorola produced secure communications products, such as high-grade crypto phones, two-way radio systems, police data terminals and dedicated crypto chips.

Although Motorola no longer produces such devices, their products are still in use by many agencies worldwide.

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Motorola Saber II

AT&T was at one time the largest telephone (network) operator in the US. The company also produced a series of high-end encryption devices, such as the STU-III crypto phone, for the US Government and others.

AT&T Technologies was later renamed to Lucent Technologies and was then acquired by General Dynamics, who continued the product range.

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AT&T STU-III with CIK installed

Tele Security Timmann (TST)
Tele Security Timmann, or Timmann, or TST, was a German manufacturer of advanced electronic cipher machines who was established in the late 1970s. The company was based in and around Tutzing near Munich (Germany) until 2009.

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TST-3010 (Latin version)

Key fill devices
A key transfer device is an electronic device that is used (most commonly by the military) for the distribution of cryptographic material, such as crypto keys and frequency hopping tables.

Key fillers often use a standard data protocols, but proprietary protocols are used as well. Many key fill units have the same 6-pin U-229 connector allowing connection to standard radio sets, such as Have Quick and SINCGARS.

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KYK-13 key loader

Voice encryption
This section deals with secure voice cipher equipment (voice crypto) from a variety of manufacturers. Most of the units shown here, are also available in other categories on this website.

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MSC-2001 front panel

Electronic Message Units
Sometimes, when voice communication is not possible or is considered not-secure, an Electronic Message Unit (EMU) is used in combination with an existing radio set. Such EMUs are commonly used in combination with military radio sets and generally employ some level of cryptography.

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Hand methods
Over the years, and especially in the beginning of cryptography, many different methods have been developed for manual encryption. These are often referred to as 'hand methods'.

The methods vary from the use of simple tables and discs, to complex slide rulers and disc arrays. An example is the so-called Caesar Box shown here.

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A codebook is a very old and effective method for concealing the contents of a message. In many cases, frequently used words or even complete sentences were replaced by three or five-letter abbreviations.

On their own they aren't very safe, but when used in combination with other cipher methods, they can be a real nightmare for the average code breaker.

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Close-up of the title of the Internationales Signalbuch 1931

Since the late 1990s, dedicated cipher machines are more and more replaced by modern PCs on which crypto is implemented in software. This is also the case with the Armed Forces, where special reggedized PCs are now being used.

Despite strict TEMPEST rules, however, PCs are non-secure devices by nature, due to the use of standard operating systems. In many cases, external crypto units are still needed.

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Over the years, many devices have been developed to allow secure phone conversions to be held over standard telephone lines, ranging from voice scramblers to state-of-the-art digital encryption.

This section covers a range of secure telephones, including the Philips PNVX and the famous American STU-III.

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Typical view of the Motorola SECTEL 9600 (STU-III)

FS-5000 (Harpoon)
Although the FS-5000 is actually a (spy) radio station, it is listed here, as it contains serious cryptographic capabilities using a 120-bit key.

The unit was codenamed Harpoon and was designed as a common radio set for all stay-behind organisations in Europe during the Cold War. It was manufactured by AEG Telefunken in Ulm (Germany) around 1988.

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Complete FS-5000 radio station

Skanti DS-6001
Skanti was a manufacturer of MF/HF transceivers and digital voice scramblers that were intended for the maritime market. The DS-6001 voice scrambler was used worldwide aboard fishing vessels.

It was commonly used in combination with the TRP-6000 MF/HF transceiver shown in the image on the right.

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Skanti DS-6001 digital voice scrambler on top of a TRP-6000 transceiver

Tait is a large international supplier of (secure) communications equipment, based in Christchurch (New Zealand).

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Tait T-3000/II VHF handheld radio

Thales is a large multinational electronics manufacturer who also makes encryption equipment. Some of this equipment is acquired from Thomson CSF who in turn acquired it from former Norwegian manufacturer STK.

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Further information
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