Frode Weierud and Olaf Ostwald have written the interesting article ‘Modern breaking of Enigma cipher texts’ on modern techniques used in solving original Enigma messages from WWII.
“Breaking German Army Ciphers” is the title of a Cryptologia article from 2005, describing the lucky survival of several hundred authentic Enigma messages of World War II, and an account of a ciphertext-only cryptanalysis of a large number of these messages, leaving only a few (mostly short messages) unbroken. After reviewing the work done, and investigating the reasons for both lucky breaks and close misses, the modern ciphertext-only attack on Enigma messages is improved, especially on genuine ones with short lengths and/or many garbles. The difficulties of a proper measure for the candidate’s closeness to a plaintext are clarified. The influence on the decryption process of an empty plugboard and one with only a few correct plugs is examined. The method is extended by a partial exhaustion of the plugboard combined with an optimized hillclimbing strategy. The newly designed software succeeds in breaking formerly unbroken messages.
Frode has also summarized the previous efforts to solve these messages at CryptoCellar Tales.