Cracking the Enigma: How Alan Turing was destroyed by the people he saved

alan-turing-s-100th-12-celebratory-images-from-across-the-web-f0424e174dDuring WW2, Germany coordinated their war strategy through a series of encrypted messages, passed from central command to their armed forces. German cryptologists used an Enigma machine to do this. Enigma used Symmetric Cryptography, meaning that the same key was used for both encryption and decryption. Each letter was sent through a series of circuits (consisting of a plug board and 3 rotating wheels) to create a highly randomized output.  The key is the Enigma set-up itself, which is the choice/order of the wheels, the ring setting and plug connections. Enigma configurations were changed daily. Every month, the Germans distributed a key sheet to Enigma operators. This contained a list of different configurations for each day of the month. This key sheet was critical to be able to decrypt the codes. As there were 159 million possible Enigma settings, the time taken to go through all the possible Enigma configurations to decrypt a message would not have been worth the effort.
2009-09-25_3946 The British needed a fast method to decrypt the codes. German troops were advancing fast and the Allied troops needed an advantage. They hired a team of mathematicians and problem solvers to create a decryption machine. Alan Turing lead efforts in Bletchley Park to create one he called The Bombe (not to be confused with another Polish machine of the same name). Exploiting a critical flaw in Enigma, the Bombe was able to decrypt Enigma messages in under 20 minutes. As the Enigma has a rule that a letter could not become itself, the Bombe worked backwards to deduce all the impossible rotor and plug board configurations that violated this rule. It was able to do this very quickly via electrical circuits.

Click here for more information about how Enigma worked and how it was finally broken: 

As the British wanted to continue to spy on the German forces, the operation continued on in secret. This action resulted in the saving of countless lives and the allied success of key battles, including D-Day. After the war, Alan Turing went on to work for the National Physical Laboratory and published a paper on Artificial Intelligence in 1950 called “The Turing Test”.

Despite all his achievements, Alan Turing’s contributions to allied war victory went mostly unnoticed. He was disgraced and arrested for homosexuality in 1952. He was given a choice of imprisonment or hormone treatments to “cure” his homosexuality. He chose hormone treatments. This didn’t “cure” his homosexuality, instead it resulted in his suffering of emotional and physical scars during the ordeal, eventually culminating to his death at the young age of 41. It wasn’t until 2009 that Britain issued an official apology to Turing.


Gordon Brown “He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war,” said Brown. “The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. … Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly.”–British-WWII-Code-Breaker-Goes-on-Trial-for-Homosexuality.html


Alan Turing is now regarded as a father of Cryptography, Artificial Intelligence and the modern computer. In 2014, Benedict Cumberbatch starred as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, which became the highest grossing independent film in the year. It was nominated in eight categories in the 87th Academy Awards and won the People’s Choice Award at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival. This film was also honored for bringing Turing’s legacy to the public. Alan Turing was also honored at the 2015 London Pride march as a Pride Hero for his contributions. His family represented him in the march. This also happened to coincide with a landmark USA Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage would be recognized under the US Constitution, making all marriages legal across America


5 Distressing cases of cyber bullicide


Bullicide is the unofficial term for being bullied to death. The bullies that used to torment their victims in the schoolyard have gone online and now it’s 24/7. This is ripping families apart. The bullying tactics have become a lot more invasive in the online world. From using private spycams and organising viewing parties, to online trickery and blackmail and setting up hoax accounts, bullies have a lot more tools at their disposal but also a lot more to lose. The barriers of traditional bullying have been completely broken and this new form of cyberbullying is terrifying.

1. Ryan Halligan

Ryan Halligan of Vermont US took his own life at the tender age of 13 in 2003.  Due to a stroke of bad luck, he became the target of school bullies. One of the bullies was a popular girl called Ashley who he had a crush on. She began chatting to him online to gain personal information about him that would later be copied into other chats. This included private confessions of his learning difficulties. Bullies also spread rumours about him, leading to more online bullying. Although his parents knew about the school bullying, they didn’t realise that his torment would carry on well into the night. He found no way to escape and instead searched for ways to end his life. His lifeless body was discovered by his older sister.

2. Megan Meier

Leading up to her 14th birthday, Megan Meier took her life in 2006. Her bully was a former friend who set up a fake online persona, a 16 year old boy called Josh Evans to deliver cruel messages to her.  At first, “Josh” showed an interest in her, telling her that she was pretty, adding her on MySpace and regularly communicating with her online. Then the exchanges took a colder turn when “Josh” lost interest in her, shared embarrassing exchanges online with others, told her that she was hated by everyone and to essentially kill herself. According to her mum, Megan struggled with weight and self-esteem all her life and Josh was the first guy to tell her that he found her pretty. Her small body was discovered by her mother.

3. Amanda Todd

At the age of 13, Amanda Todd began using video chat to meet new people. It was through this that she came across a relentless cyber stalker who had managed to convince her to show him her breasts. Despite declining this request for a whole year, she finally gave in. Once he obtained the footage, he used it to attempt to blackmail her into further sexual acts. When she declined, he circulated her video online which led to her being bullied at school. She tried to change schools twice and even tried to move to a new city, but each time, he would track her down, share her video with her new classmates and teachers, and resume the cycle of abuse. She was hospitalised for depression, engaged in self-harm and bullied at every school. On September 7, 2012, Amanda posted a video online titled “My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self-harm”. A month later, she took her life. She was 15.

4. Daniel Perry

At the age of 17, Daniel was targeted by online scammers who tricked him into recording an explicit video to blackmail him. At the time, he believed he was chatting to a girl his own age. They threatened to share his video with family and friends if he didn’t pay. An hour after receiving the threat, he jumped off a bridge and died shortly after being rescued. Before his jump, he asked the blackmailers what options he had to avoid payment. He was told that he would be better off dead if he couldn’t pay. What is remarkable about this is that despite being very close to his family, he didn’t want them to know this was happening to him. He was left so embarrassed that he decided that ending his life would be better than having those videos circulated to his friends and family.

5. Tyler Clementi

Tyler Clementi, a talented violinist from Rutgers University was only 18 years old when two roommates bullied him into taking his own life. The world may have lost a great musical prodigy, but this is something we will never know now because Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei robbed us of this legacy. Dharun deliberately targeted Tyler for reasons unknown to anyone but himself. It was an organised attack. He conducted a background research into Tyler and found out that he was gay. That was all he needed to do something as ruthless as it was illegal. He and his sidekick privately filmed Tyler’s sexual encounters in the dorm room on two separate encounters without his knowledge, streamed this online and even organised a viewing party to add insult to injury. Dharun also encouraged his Twitter followers to share these encounters. Although Tyler was confident about coming out and stood up to his roommate’s trysts, it was the online taunting about his sexuality that got to him. He died in 2010.

On rallying the troops
“Children can be cruel”. A statement that is oft repeated and is true. It is also true to say that children aren’t usually aware of how cruel their actions might be. There are psychological reasons for this but it basically means that most people who aren’t bad may end up doing bad things (this is true of some adults as well). In many of these cases, there would have been classmates and friends who would have done little to help or even participated themselves. It’s easier to participate by “liking” or “sharing” a disturbing post than it is stick up for the victim and potentially become one yourself. What is also true about the online world is how unforgiving it can be. Once something is shared, you can’t take it back nor control the consequences. There are growing legal and employment consequences for perpetrating and/or participating in online bullying.

Why parents need to read Alicia’s story (


In 2002, a bright 13 year girl named Alicia Kozakiewicz was abducted by an online predator she met on Yahoo chat. With the help of the FBI, she managed to escape, but not before she was taken interstate, assaulted, filmed and held in captivity. After her miraculous rescue, she launched “The Alicia Project” to prevent children from being abducted and to support children who have. The project provides internet safety and awareness education to parents, children, teachers, governments and agencies.

Here are some sobering statistics about online predators.
Statistics are from

  • Online predators used social networking sites to gain information about
    1. the child’s likes and dislikes (82% cases)
    2. home and school information (65% cases)
    3. whereabouts (25% cases)
  • Most children will not report sex crimes to an adult out of shame and/or embarrassment
  • 1/7 children received a sexual solicitation online. Over half (56%) of sexually solicited kids were asked to send a picture, with 27% of the pictures being sexually-oriented in nature. In some (4%) cases, these requests were aggressive and involved threats to their offline lives
  • About 200 million girls and 100 million boys will be sexually victimized before they reach their adulthood

“Predators do not discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status, income, or religion. It can happen. It does happen. It is happening.”

To become a victim, you only have to be unlucky enough to cross paths with a predator. If this happens, you may still be able to defeat them if the right precautions are taken.

1. Disable geotagging on mobile devices before taking photos of children

Geotagging uses GPS trackers to pinpoint your location. While Geotagging is turned on by default and can be useful for some applications (e.g. Google Maps), you can turn it off for others (e.g. photos/videos of children). There are many online resources that provide step-by-step instructions on how to do this. Neglecting to do so may actually be giving away free information to the predators.

Example: You share a picture of your daughter with your 200 Facebook friends. In the photo, she is at home opening a birthday gift. 50 friends like and comment on the photo. This simple action can provide an online predator with information about where she lives, how old she is, name of her parents and what she likes.

Tip 1: Turn off geotagging/check privacy settings when taking photos/videos of children, especially when you are at a place where your child frequents (home/school).

Tip 2: When friends take photos/videos of your children, kindly remind them to do the same before publishing these photos/videos online. You cannot control their privacy/sharing settings and you don’t know who they are friends with (they may not even know)original

2. Don’t “check in” to your home or someone else’s home

While many people try to keep their home address and landline phone details private, they can be surprisingly lax when it comes to “Check In’s” on their social media. Even for those who know not to check-in to their own home, they may leave their judgement behind when they check in at their friends home. E.g. “At Dan’s 8th birthday!” or “Checking out Mary’s impressive diamond collection”.

This happened to me a while ago, a friend checked in at my house. At the time, it wasn’t a big deal as I was living in a rental with no assets and no children (not much has changed since) but I learnt a lesson from that and now remind my friends not to check in when they come over. I can imagine this being a bigger deal if my circumstances were different.

Tip 3.  Do not check in at your home and kindly remind your friends not to check in at yours. You can’t blame them if they did not know

3. Monitor child activity online

Some people may disagree with spying on anyone but with the growing use of mobile and tablets, kids are spending more time online. This places them at risk of accessing porn/illegal sites, publishing unemployable content, sexting, getting groomed by predators/terrorists, cyberbullying, oversharing personal information and more. It is for this reason why the benefits of child monitoring, combined with site blocking and education, may outweigh any costs. It is also legal and ethical as long as kids are aware they are being monitored. It remains unethical and illegal to spy on spouses/friends or any adults.

Monitoring their online behaviour also sets them up for the real world. Everything we do online is monitored in some way or form by our ISP, government or employer so getting children accustomed to the idea that online is not private, is not a bad thing to learn.

There are applications available that allow parents to monitor their children’s online behaviour. For a small price, the options are quite comprehensive and parents are able to adjust the settings to suit their needs. When selecting an application, also do some background research on the company to ensure you are comfortable with how they manage the information collected.

Tip 4: Monitor your children’s online behaviour, but also ensure they are kept educated.

For more tips, please go to (highly recommended reading).onlinefamily