CIA and German Encryption Scheme

Government entities worldwide have used encryption to enable confidential communication about covert operations, allied countries, and strategic plans during wartime. Beginning in the 1940s during World War II and continuing throughout the Cold War, a machine known as the M-209 became a necessary tool for sending encrypted communication among the troops. However, The Washington Post recently discovered that what was considered to be a trusted shield for private information was merely a tool for the American CIA and West German Intelligence (known as BND in Germany) to have advanced knowledge of every move a country planned to make.

Beginnings of a Secret Partnership

The company that produced the M-209 machines, and later more advanced versions, was called Crypto AG. The founder, Boris Haeglin, fled to the United States during the Nazi occupation in the 1940s with his encryption machine. Over the course of the war, about 140,000 M-209s were built.

After WWII ended, Haeglin reopened his factory in Switzerland. He sold encryption equipment to over 120 countries in the 21st century. These countries used encrypted communication for spies, soldiers, diplomats and more. Haeglin was dedicated to the United States as he hoped they would remain a customer and knew they could damage his profits if they sold the surplus of M-209 machines they had leftover from the war.

This led to a partnership between Haeglin and the CIA. The deal required Haeglin to only sell his most complicated models to countries of which the USA approved. Other countries would receive weaker systems and the United States would compensate Haeglin for his loss in sales.

Technology Develops with Opportunity for Deception

With the development of electronic circuits, there was a need to create newer models of the cryptographic machines. It was then that the National Security Agency (NSA) stepped in and completely designed the interior workings of the newest encryption model. They designed the machines with a purposeful flaw, making it easier for the CIA to intercept and decrypt messages from other countries.

Later on, when Haeglin had aged and was looking for someone to head the company, the CIA in partnership with the BND service bought Crypto AG. The Washington Post states that in the 1980s, Crypto AG accounted for 40% of diplomatic cables and other transmissions by foreign governments, which the NSA cryptanalysts decoded and collected for their own purposes.

The entire operation was known as “Thesaurus” and later referred to as “Rubicon.” During the length of ownership, both the CIA and BND made millions from the company and gave large sums of cash back to the company to ensure they kept the world’s governments as partners. Eventually, the BND felt the risk of exposure was too great and sold their shares of the company to the CIA in the 1990s. However, the CIA retained their involvement until the encryption methods became outdated and Crypto AG was liquidated and sold to separate companies in 2018.

Evolution of Encryption for National Security

It is somewhat shocking to think that 60 plus years ago, there seemed to be one main source for encryption machines. Crypto AG capitalized on the need for the technology and many countries relied on their specific products for years. The ability to have power over one of the most patronized companies at the time gave the CIA and BND an unimaginable advantage to international relations.

The idea of cryptography dates as far back as the age of ancient Spartans using leather belts and wooden rods to send messages during battle. It developed through the years to include electro-mechanical machines with rotating discs, enigmas with multiple rotators, and block ciphers that use algorithms and encryption keys. The creation of the internet led to Data Encryption Standards (DES) and Advanced Encryption Standards (AES), which is still used today.

Encryption’s widespread growth and increased intricacy would now make it nearly impossible to crack as easily as in the 1940s. Nowadays, government and corporate entities, as well as individual consumers, utilize encryption in some of the following ways:

  • Virtual Private Networks
  • Email and Messaging Encryption Apps
  • File and Disk Encryption
  • Password Managers

Present Day National Security

The majority of national communication among military forces include commercial communications networks, radiotelegraph networks, and encrypted computer systems. Law enforcement officers and government officials worldwide have an ongoing debate with manufacturers of encrypted phones, like Apple, as well as other companies, stating that there needs to be a “backdoor” to the encryption levels so they may have access in the name of national security.

The debate is still ongoing with some countries already implementing legislation against VPNs and other encryption methods. However, there is an encryption solution that prevents unauthorized parties from accessing sensitive information and puts the user in control of who can view the data within. The SecureDrives are hardware encrypted storage devices that can only be accessed through a unique PIN or a secure app on a mobile device. An admin on the device can set read-only mode and even deny access to a user at any time. SecureData doesn’t store your data on our servers and has no access to your information that is kept on the device. Learn more about how these encrypted solutions can protect your personal or corporate files by calling 1-800-875-3230.