For more than half a century, governments all over the world
trusted a single company to keep the communications of their
spies, soldiers and diplomats secret.
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.
What a story. And in turn, makes you wonder what companies the CIA or NSA (or spy agencies from other governments) might own today.