CIA secretly owned world’s top encryption systems supplier, could read ally and adversary messages for decades
The company, Crypto AG, got its first break with a contract to build code-making machines for U.S. troops during World War II. Flush with cash, it became a dominant maker of encryption devices for decades, navigating waves of technology from mechanical gears to electronic circuits and, finally, silicon chips and software.
The Swiss firm made millions of dollars selling equipment to more than 120 countries well into the 21st century. Its clients included Iran, military juntas in Latin America, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, and even the Vatican.
But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.
The decades-long arrangement, among the most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War, is laid bare in a classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation obtained by The Washington Post and ZDF, a German public broadcaster, in a joint reporting project. < – >
CIA Secretly Owned Crypto, the Swiss Company That Ruled Global Spy Comms for Decades, Says Report sold it off in 2018
Crypto AG is a Swiss company specialising in communications and information security. With headquarters in Steinhausen, the company is a long-established manufacturer of encryption machines and a wide variety of cipher devices.