The device is house in a 4U 19" rackmount enclosure, and was usually mounted
inside a ruggedised transit case, as shown in the image on the right. The civil
variant had a bright front panel, but was otherwise functionally identical.
The T-450 was developed in the mid-1960s, and was released in 1969,
as a competitor to the Gretacoder 812,
which was made by Crypto AG's main competitor Gretag.
The device was in production until 1988, and
was used in some countries well into the 1990s.
In Iran it was even used until (at least) 2003, when the Americans
invaded Iraq. It was succeeded by the
Development of the machine was started in the mid-1960s, at the time when
the company was still owned by its founder,
Boris Hagelin. It was developed
in parallel with the H-460
– Crypto AG's first fully electronic cipher
machine – and uses a similar cryptologic that is based on
shift-registers. As Crypto AG had strong ties with the American and
German intelligence services, it was decided that the US
National Security Agency (NSA)
would develop the cryptologic.
Both the H-460
and T-450 have a built-in weakness, that makes it exploitable
by the NSA. Such a weakness is commonly known as a backdoor.
It allowed NSA, with appropriate computing power, to break its messages.
But as it wasn't hidden too well, and in 1978 it was discovered by some of the
customers. With a drop-in fix – provided by the NSA – the problems were solved,
whilst the machine remained readable (exploitable) to them,
albeit with increased computing power.
Over the years, Egypt was one of Crypto AG's best customers. And for the
Americans, it was one of their top intelligence targets. 1 And because they
were using the exploitable T-450, they were (unwittingly) also one of the
best intelligence suppliers to them. But that changed in the autumn of 1978,
when suddenly they began questioning Crypto AG's R&D chief when he was on a
routine visit to Cairo. According to the Egyptians, all shift-registers
were bad, and so was the T-450 .
In panic to save the day, the R&D chief offered the
CRT-320 as a replacement.
But as that was a secure (unbreakable) device, NSA demanded that the offer
was retracted. In fact, he should never have offered in the first place.
At NSA, cryptologist Dave Frasier quickly created a drop-in fix for
the existing T-450 machines — an exploitable one, of course
— that should be offered instead.
But at Crypto AG, one of the engineers had meanwhile fixed the
cryptologic of the T-450 himself
and that fix was not exploitable by NSA. The engineer didn't
know that the Americans controlled the show, and was simply trying
to serve the customer as best he could. With the best intentions.
But this was not what NSA wanted. In the end, the R&D chief went to Cairo
with the NSA-designed fix, and pretended it was his own invention.
And the Egyptians accepted it .
The Egyptians had been using their T-450 on high-level links during
the Middle-East negotiations at Camp David in 1978, shortly before they
began questioning its security.
Iran was another customer that used the T-450,
and it was also an American intelligence target.
They had bought the T-450 in 1983, but almost immediately after the
introduction, the Iraqis broke it with help from the Russian
The break was possible, because of grave security mistakes on the side of
the Iranians: they were sending multiple messages on the same key,
allowing them to be broken in depth .
They even bought a Japanese computer – with suitable software and
training for approx. 1000 personnel – to speed up the process.
Iran kept using the T-450 until at least 2003, when the Americans invaded
Iraq. This was way past the economic life of the machine, and way past its
'expiration date'. By 2003 everyone should have known that the old
shift-register-based machines were unsafe.
At present, no further information about the T-450 is available to us.
We are currently looking for manuals, technical descriptions, circuit
diagrams and in particular a detailed description of the
If you can help any way, please contact us.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 02 January 2020. Last changed: Saturday, 25 April 2020 - 06:32 CET.