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Uncle Sam Is Watching You: How US Heard India's Confidential Conversations

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Inc42
14th February, 2020 14:44 IST

For decades, most of the governments around the world relied on a Switzerland-based company Crypto AG for securing communications with their spies, security and intelligence agencies.

While most of these countries, including India, had trusted the encryption service of this information security company, a report by The Washington Post and a German public broadcaster ZDF has now revealed that Crypto AG was sharing confidential information with the intelligence agency of the US — the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Founded by Boris Hagelin, Crypto AG gained popularity after it bagged the project to secure communications of the US during World War II. After that, the company became one of the major companies in this segment and started to sell various security devices including mechanical gears, electronic circuits, silicon chips, and software.

Besides India, Crypto AG was also the preferred company for governments sitting in Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and even the Vatican for securing their confidential communications. However, neither of Crypto AG clients ever found out that the company was secretly owned by the CIA and continued to trust the company.

Uncle Sam Is Watching You

According to the media report, the CIA had a confidential partnership with West German intelligence Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) for the Crypto AG deal. After this deal, the CIA had redesigned the encryption services of Crypto AG to gain access to every encrypted conversation of the company’s clients. Notably, BND had pulled itself out of the deal in the 1990s.

After the case came to light, the Switzerland government had now said that it has set up an investigation to find out the links of Crypto AG with the US and German-based intelligence agencies.

While the media report hasn’t given any details of CIA listening to Indian classified communications, it has cited other examples of operations of Libya, Iran, and other South American countries. However, if the CIA was listening to these confidential conversations, then it can be speculated that the CIA was also listening to most of India’s highly classified operations as well.

Interestingly, four other countries — Israel, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom — were reportedly also aware of this highly classified partnership between the CIA and Crypto. These countries also reportedly received intelligence inputs from the CIA.

After decades of dominance in the information security segment, Crypto AG went for liquidation in 2018. At that time, it was bought by two other companies: CyOne Securities and Crypto International.

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