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Crypto Spying Scandal - Switzerland Criminal Complaint

Crypto Spying

July 11, 2020 | 

JOHN K MWANIKI |  0 Comments| 

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In one of the fatal spying cases of all time, Switzerland has accused the CIA and the German Intelligence of spying on other countries.

The operation running over the years is alleged to have been a deliberate move with a Swiss cryptography company as the suspected source. 

The complaint was forwarded to the Attorney General's office by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) concerning Crypto AG's role in the whole menace.

SECO believes the company misled them on, among many other things, the encryption devices. While the company promised total security, they created back doors to access information from the devices. 

SECO was not aware of the United States Central Intelligence, and the German Intelligence Federal Service were part owners of the device making companies until 2018. For decades, the two entities produced gadgets that they would encrypt for information from multiple countries. 

The SECO has filed a legal suit against an unknown person as they are yet to establish who at Crypto AG might have been aware of the menace. With around 400 employees at the peak, it might take some time to identify the alleged offender.

The only positive is that only a few top tire employees are likely to be privy to the information hence the ease of location. 

SECO plans to pursue justice with Article 14 of the Goods Control Act that requires dealers to provide all the necessary information about a product. Failure to provide any crucial information attracts a charge of 10 years maximum prison and a maximum fine of CHF5 million ($5.18million).

SECO says that it relied on non-factual information when purchasing the gadgets. That if it had all the information, it would not have cleared the orders of Crypto's machines. 

This is not the first time when Crypto AG is facing similar allegations. The company specializing in making encryption and other cypher devices has been accused of selling "backdoor" products for the German, British, and American Intelligence. 

It is also not the first time that the information about Operation Rubicon is coming out. It is only that most of the information has been scanty. However, after research by a team of investigative journalists from Germany, Switzerland, and the US, a lot more information is out. 

For now, the Attorney General's office is yet to conclude its investigation to determine if the case warrants an open criminal proceeding, as reported by SonntagsZeitung. Switzerland's Ministry of Economy also confirmed the presence of the complaint without any further information. 

The Swiss government has already appointed a former Supreme Court Justice to probe into the Operation Rubicon matter. The judge is expected to file the report soon. The Swiss parliament is also facing increasing pressure to launch a further investigation in Switzerland's role in the whole saga. 

Other than Switzerland, several other countries have also been subject to spying tactics using Crypto devices. Some of the affected countries include Iran, Argentina, Libya, Egypt, and Chile. All these received flawed devices that had leakages for the American and German spies. 

Afterwards, the spies would share the information among five countries at a cost. The Five Eyes members who received the communications are US, UK, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. 

The whole scandal is a big deal to Switzerland due to its long-standing position as a neutral nation. The country would want to do everything in its power to guard that position. 

Why Swiss Neutrality Matters 

One of the reasons why Switzerland is shattered with the reports on espionage is that it risks losing its stand as a neutral country. Only a few countries in the world enjoy such a standing. Most notably Austria and Sweden.

However, they don't seem to give such value as much as Switzerland. 

The neutrality status has allowed Switzerland to be the leading negotiator between warring countries. For example, it has been instrumental in negotiating for peace deals between the US and Iran. It has facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid to Iran and also to reduce international economic sanctions. 

However, its role in selling the flawed encryption devices for US and German to spy on other countries put to the test its stand on world powers. The Swizz citizens would also not like a case of ongoing wars from the country.

They already believe it is their neutrality that helped protect them from the world wars 1 and 2. 

It is also the peaceful times that have aided in more robust economic and infrastructure development. While the neighbouring countries had their establishments turned to ash and dust, they continued developing at unprecedented levels. 

The Prevalence of Espionage in the World

The main concern arising is how much information the US has on other countries. With most countries failing to produce their cryptographic equipment, they relied on Crypto AG for the supplies. Only the Soviet Bloc of Russia and China did not rely on Crypto AG for the devices. 

Reports indicate that the US and Germany had a fallout due to the extent of the US listening to both allies and competing countries. With the US having a stake in the company for longer, they had access to details on numerous countries.

Latin America, parts of Asia, including the Koreas, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, all had their information tapped.

Touted as one of the most secure platforms due to encryption, most leaders used the device for communications. Although the extent of the US invasion is not yet clear, it is believed to be quite a lot. 

Bottom Line 

Espionage is not a new phenomenon in the world. Several espionage attacks have targeted countries and other organizations. For example, the African Union accused China of placing listening devices on the main headquarter offices it has built it. World leaders have also been subject to targeted spying. 

However, what's new is the role of cryptographic in spying. The revelations on the role of Crypto AG not only threatens the Swiss position as the neutral land but also brings into focus the crypto security. 

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