Mechanical Backdoors in Cold War Encryption Machines

Posted on in Presentations

Recently declassified documents from the National Security Agency confirm what was suspected for decades. Several of the mechanical cipher devices built by Crypto AG after World War II contained deliberate encryption weaknesses that could be exploited by the NSA. Many stories have been told about breaking the Enigma. This talk will cover Boris Hagelin’s devices that were sold “pre-broken.”

Learning Objectives:
1: Learn about mechanical encryption devices and how they work.
2: Understand how these devices can be cryptographically weakened.
3: Discover a very interesting historical story about Cold War supply-chain attacks.

Understanding of basic cryptographic principles such as substitution and permutation, stream ciphers, and so forth.

Marcus Sachs


Chief Security Officer, Pattern Computer

Protecting Data & Applied Crypto

supply chain security awareness government spying encryption strategy & trends cryptography



Share With Your Community