NSA News & Highlights

Tag: cipher machine

Oct. 12, 2021

Long lost and rare Italian cipher machine found

At the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Nazi Germany’s Enigma encryption machine stood as the state-of-the art method for sending and receiving secret messages. It wasn’t until 1940 that English mathematician Alan Turing, and the team at Bletchley Park, cracked the daily changes Berlin made to its cipher system, and helped the Allied powers win the war. While the Enigma stands out as the most famous of encryption machines, Italy, set out to develop a high-end machine to rival its war partner, Germany. In 1939 Italy’s government secretly tasked a little-known photogrammetric equipment company, Ottico Meccanica Italiana (OMI), to build a device capable of rivaling its more famous cousin. Founded in 1926, OMI’s tools were used to create precision topographical maps and surveys using stereoscopic aerial photography. The technical expertise made OMI a natural fit for the job. The end result was OMI’s first cipher machine known as the Cryptograph Alpha.