Ransom negotiations for WWII code machine begin

Museum contacted by kidnapper after agreeing to pay ransom for historic crypto device

Bletchley Park museum, devoted to displaying some of the earliest computer technology in the world, began negotiations over the weekend to rescue a stolen wartime cryptography artefact for £28,000 ransom.

The Enigma machine was taken from Bletchley Park earlier this year. Director of the museum Christine Long was then sent an enigmatic ransom note for the device, containing a mysterious "code word". The note claimed that the new owner of the machine did not know it was stolen and wished to return it for the price originally paid.

The museum issued a statement stating that it was prepared to pay for the machine, but Long says she was contacted hours after the original ransome deadline of 12pm Friday.

The machine is one of only a handful in the world that were used to encrypt Nazi high command messages during World War II and is thought to be worth around £100,000.

Long says that allowing the Engima machine to disappear would mean losing an irreplacable piece of history. "It is extremely important," says Long. "Obviously we are reluctant to pay any money but, given that it is so important, we think that we are responding rationally. We're confident that they have the machine."

The Enigma code was used during the war to encrypt secret messages between U-boats and military command. Enigma machines were used to simplify the perplexing process of enciphering and deciphering the Enigma code. During the war Bletchley Park was the location of Station X, Britain's top secret codebreaking headquarters, where mathematicians and engineers developed arguably the first ever programmable digital computer, Colossus II, to help break the Enigma. Cracking the Enigma code is thought to have shortened the war by a number of years and contributed to Allied victory.

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