Former Stasi Cryptographers Now Develop Technology for NATO
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West Germans were desperate to prevent the Stasi's top codebreakers from falling into the wrong hands and set up a company to hire the East German cryptographers. Now the former Stasi scientists develop technology used by Angela Merkel and NATO.
Every morning, while going to his office in Berlin's Adlershof district, Ralph W. passes a reminder of his own past, a small museum that occupies a room on the ground floor of the building. The museum could easily double as a command center run by the class enemy in an old James Bond film. A display of coding devices from various decades includes the T-310, a green metal machine roughly the size of a huge refrigerator, which East German officials used to encode their telex messages.
The device was the pride of the Stasi, the feared East German secret police, which was W.'s former employer. Today he works as a cryptologist with Rohde & Schwarz SIT GmbH (SIT), a subsidiary of Rohde & Schwarz, a Munich-based company specializing in testing equipment, broadcasting and secure communications. W. and his colleagues encode sensitive information to ensure that it can only be read or heard by authorized individuals. Their most important customers are NATO and the German government.
Rohde & Schwarz is something of an unofficial supplier of choice to the German government. Among other things, the company develops bugproof mobile phones for official use. Since 2004, its Berlin-based subsidiary SIT, which specializes in encryption solutions, has been classified as a "security partner" to the German Interior Ministry, which recently ordered a few thousand encoding devices for mobile phones, at about €1,250 ($1,675) apiece. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has used phones equipped with SIT's encryption technology. In other words, the Stasi's former cryptographers are now Merkel's cryptographers...