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Secretly owned by CIA, Swiss tech company Crypto sold encryption products to 120 countries and...

Crypto AG corporate logo (Source: Crypto AG via Wikipedia)
Crypto AG corporate logo (Source: Crypto AG via Wikipedia)
Liquidated in 2018, Swiss firm Crypto AG seems to have been involved in helping the US and German governments spy on no less than 120 countries for decades. The story has just surfaced thanks to an investigation carried out by The Washington Post, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), and Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF).
Codrut Nistor,
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... it seems we have a new big security-related story. However, this time it seems like China has nothing to do with it. According to the findings of a recent joint effort by The Washington Post and German public broadcaster ZDF, who went through multiple declassified — but still partially redacted — CIA documents, US and Germany were involved in this operation that was initially codenamed "Thesaurus" and then renamed to "Rubicon."

Without further ado, we should mention the highlights of this very interesting decade-long spy story that will surely be turned into at least a book and a movie, although it could easily provide enough material for a (very!) long TV show.

  • Crypto AG was born in 1952 and was dissolved in 2018.
  • During all this time, the entity was actually controlled by the CIA and the BND, its German counterpart.
  • The company sold encryption products to 120 countries, including Latin America's military juntas, Iran, Pakistan, India, and even the tiny — but very important from many points of view — city-state of Vatican.
  • The aforementioned devices were rigged so that the CIA/BND duo can easily break the codes and decipher the encrypted messages sent by Crypto AG's customers.
  • The long list of actions that took place thanks to the communications decrypted due to certain parties' usage of Crypto AG rigged hardware involved feeding intelligence to Britain regarding Argentina's military actions during the Falklands War or monitoring Iran's mullahs during the 1979 hostage crisis.

However, leaving the highlights above aside, there are a few things regarding the limitations of the program that must be pointed out as well and the essential part is that both China and Russia never used Crypto AG products. The company has been disbanded in 2018 but many of its products are still in use and Swedish-owned Crypto International has taken over the international business of Crypto AG. This new company claims to have no ties with the CIA or other similar agencies for now.

Before moving on to the comments section, you might want to check the sources. The Washington Post has a captivating — and very long — story, so be sure to have the time needed to properly check out their article entitled "The intelligence coup of the century" and keep an open mind all the way through.

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Codrut Nistor
Codrut Nistor - Senior Tech Writer - 5493 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2013
In my early school days, I hated writing and having to make up stories. A decade later, I started to enjoy it. Since then, I published a few offline articles and then I moved to the online space, where I contributed to major websites that are still present online as of 2021 such as Softpedia, Brothersoft, Download3000, but I also wrote for multiple blogs that have disappeared over the years. I've been riding with the Notebookcheck crew since 2013 and I am not planning to leave it anytime soon. In love with good mechanical keyboards, vinyl and tape sound, but also smartphones, streaming services, and digital art.
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Codrut Nistor, 2020-02-12 (Update: 2020-02-12)