Colloquium

Speaker: Roman Sznajder (Bowie State)
 

Title: ENIGMA: Harnessing mathematics in cryptology

Abstract: ENIGMA was a German ciphering machine developed soon after WWI for commercial use. Shortly after, it was acquired by the German army and used for encrypting and decrypting military messages and orders.  We discuss the circumstances that led to the initial breaking of the Enigma code in 1932 by three young cryptologists: Rejewski, Różycki, and Zygalski from the Polish Cipher Office.  This was the first time when mathematics was systematically used in cryptography. Specifically, there were applications of permutation groups used to reconstruct the wiring of military Enigma and then to recover the daily keys and keys for individual messages. In the summer of 1939, when the outbreak of WWII was imminent, the Polish Cipher Office provided Allies with two copies of the Enigma machine and daily keys. Aided by these materials, the British immediately began working on breaking Enigma messages. Their office in Bletchley Park had access to human, engineering, and technological resources on an industrial scale.  The ability to read encrypted messages used by the German army—enabled by the breaking of the Enigma code—contributed to the shortening of WWII and, according to some estimates, spared several million lives.  With the British WWII archives sealed and Poland behind the Iron Curtain, the British Secret Service suppressed the knowledge about the role of Polish intelligence in breaking the Enigma
code for about thirty years. The heroic effort of three Polish cryptologists was virtually unknown to the world until the 1973 publication of a book by the French general Gustave Bertrand.  In this presentation, we will shed some light on mathematical methods, the events and people involved in the successful effort to break the Enigma code. Since the beginning of the US involvement in WWII (1942), there was a very close cooperation between the US and British intelligence. Two prominent American cryptologists, Drs. Solomon Kullback and Abraham Sinkov were involved in this project. Two high school friends, both obtained their doctorates from The Washington University (in 1934 and 1933, respectively). Dr. Sinkov was a full fledge cryptologist, while Dr. Kullback who, at a certain moment of his career, was on the faculty of The GWU, was a statistician by heart. Colonels Kullback and Sinkov are members of the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Bio: Dr. Roman Sznajder is a professor of mathematics and Graduate Program Coordinator in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Bowie State University. He received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1994 from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His current research interests include nonlinear analysis, optimization and history of mathematics. He authored and co-authored 35 articles, presented his findings at various international conferences, and reviewed papers to
about 30 research journals.