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Strategisch Verbindingsinlichtingen Centrum

In the Netherlands, Strategisch Verbindingsinlichtingen Centrum (SVIC) – Strategic Signals Intel­ligence Centre – is the national organisation tasked with traffic- and cryptanalysis (codebreaking) of intercepted foreign military and diplomatic (radio) traffic. The organisation was formerly known as TIVC and until 1982 as WKC, and can be seen as the (smaller) equivalent of the American NSA and the British GCHQ. SVIC has several partnerships with foreign intelligence agencies [1][2][5].

Although SVIC is basically a military (naval) organisation – operating under the responsibility of the Military Intelligence Service (MIVD) – it also works for, and provides information to, the Dutch civil intelligence service AIVD. SVIC is currently located in Den Haag (The Hague, Netherlands). Since 2014 it has been largely absorbed into the newly established Joint Sigint Cyber Unit (JSCU).

Years Name Description
1914 - 1940 GS IV General Staf, Sectie IV
General Staff, Section IV
1949 - 1975 MARID VI Marine Inlichtingendienst, Afdeling VI
Naval Intelligence Service, Department 6
1975 - 1982 WKC Wiskundig Centrum
Mathematics Centre
1982 - 1996 TIVC Technisch Informatieverwerkings Centrum
Technical Information Processing Centre
1996 - present SVIC Strategisch Verbindingsinlichtingen Centrum
Strategic Signals Intelligence Centre

The history of SVIC dates back to 1914, with the foundation of Section IV of the Generale Staf (GS) (General Staff) of the Army (GS IV). This eventually became Department IV of the Naval Intelligence Service (MARID) — established in 1949 — and became known as MARID VI. In 1975, MARID VI was spun out as Wiskundig Centrum (Mathematics Centre) — abbreviated WKC — and was initially located at Kattenburg, the Marine Establishment Amsterdam (MEA) in Amsterdam (Netherlands).

In 1982, WKC was renamed Technisch Informatieverwerkings Centrum (Technical Information Processing Centre) — abbreviated TIVC. In 1996, TIVC was renamed Strategisch Verbindings­inlichtingen Centrum (Strategic Signals Intelligence Centre) — abbreviated SVIC. In 2005, SVIC left the historical location Kattenburg in Amsterdam, and was relocated at the Frederik Kazerne in The Hague (Netherlands) — the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Service (MIVD).

From its foundation in 1975, WKC/TIVC/SVIC was located at the Naval Establishment Kattenburg in Amsterdam (Netherlands), where the information, gathered by a number of (radio) intercept stations, was analysed and processed. In 2005, SVIC moved from Amsterdam/Kattenburg to the Frederikkazerne in The Hague, the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Service (MIVD).

For intercept of satellite traffic (SHF), 1 the most important sources of information are the satellite groundstations in Zoutkamp (Groningen, Netherlands), and – since 2006 – an additional one in nearby Burum (Friesland). For interception of high frequency (HF) 2 radio traffic, the organisation relies on its monitoring stations in Eemnes (Utrecht) and Eibergen (Gelderland) and, since 1963, in the Caribbean – at Curaçao 3 – with Venezuela and Cuba as main targets [5].

  1. SHF = Super High Frequency (3-30 GHz)
  2. HF = High Frequency (3-30 MHz)  Wikipedia
  3. Closed on 1 July 1990 [14] around the same time as a listening post was opened in French Guiana [15].

SVIC has several partnerships with foreign sister organisations, most of which are bilateral and should be considered secret. According to Gerhard Piper in [8], WKC/TIVC had a bilaterial partner­ship with Germany since 1967. In April 2020, Dutch Professor of computer security Dr. Bart Jacobs revealed that since 1978, TIVC has a secret partnership with Denmark, Sweden, Germany and France, under the name MAXIMATOR [5]. This partnership is now widely regarded as the European equivalent of the UKUSA Fives Eyes alliance, and is active to this day (2020).

So far, the following partnerships are publicly known:

The most important task of WKC/TIVC/SVIC is traffic-analysis and crypto-analysis, commonly known as codebreaking. As part of its partnership in the MAXIMATOR alliance, it was capable of deciphering the (mostly diplomatic) traffic from nearly 75 countries for more than 50 years [5].

Aroflex was a successful electronic cipher machine, developed in the late 1970s by Philips Usfa in The Netherlands, for exclusive use by NATO. The device used a secure Philips-developed hard­ware-based encryption algorithm that had been approved by NATO's evaluation authority SECAN.

With NATO's consent, Philips also produced variants for internal communications of certain countries, such as the Dutch Police and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs. Even Austria — not a NATO member — was allowed to use Aroflex for its secure internal communications.

But there were also versions of Aroflex that were rigged in such a way, that they became friendly. In other words: that their traffic was readable (breakable) by certain intelligence agencies. This machine was known as the T-1000/CA and was officially sold by Siemens as the civil version.
Philips Aroflex

The T-1000/CA was internally known by its nickname 'Beroflex', and used a hardware-based crypto-logic (at the time known as a crypto-heart), implemented in custom chips, that were developed with help from TIVC. Philips had also developed its own rigged algorithm, but choose to implement the TIVC one, as it involved the least modification of the existing Aroflex design [5].

But even with the rigged crypto-logic in place, breaking the cipher was not trivial. It involved solving a set of binary equasions an exponentially large number of times, which was beyond the capability of a general purpose computer at the time. TIVC subsequently teamed up with Philips Research (NatLab) to develop a dedicated chip to assist in solving the binary linear equasions.

For the development of the chip, TIVC had attracted two young engineers, who worked on it from 1975 to 1977. Eventually, a total of 36 of these chips were used at the heart of a so-called special purpose device (SPD) [10], that was able to solve the cipher in approx. 40 minutes [5]. The SPD was subsequently supplied to the the US (NSA) and to the MAXIMATOR member states.

 More about Aroflex

Until the mid-1980s, Turkey had been using a One-Time Tape cipher machine from the French manufacturer Sagem. Although such a machine is theoretically unbreakable — it is based on the One-Time Pad (OTP) — the Turks made the mistake of using the same key tape multiple times (and even looping it), as a result of which everone could break it, including the USSR and TIVC.

Around 1983, after Aroflex had been rolled out in most NATO countries, including Turkey, the Turkisch Government wanted to buy additional machines for the encryption of its diplomatic traffic. But NATO refused: Aroflex was a NATO-only device and was not allowed for civil use.

The Turkish Goverment then wanted to obtain cipher machines from Swiss manufacturer Crypto AG (not knowning that the company was owned by BND and CIA), but the partners (BND and CIA) could not decide about whether NATO-partner Turkey should get secure or rigged machines. 1
Crypto Module interior

The CIA wanted to supply rigged Crypto AG equipment to Turkey, but BND refused as Turkey was a NATO partner. CIA then asked Siemens to make a more secure version of their T-1000/CA, but Siemens (logically) declined, as they had no control over the crypto-logic of a Philips machine.

CIA then turned to the Dutch COMSEC authority NBV, to approach Philips with the request to develop a rigged Aroflex variant for Turkey. Philips complied and made a Beroflex cryptologic that had the signature of a genuine Aroflex.

Turkey accepted the design, and the machines were rolled out from 1988 onwards. The new crypto-logic defeated the regular codebreaking method by means of the Special Purpose Device, and the CIA insisted that the approprate solution of the cipher was kept from Germany. For this reason it was also kept from partner TIVC [11].
Turkish Beroflex cryptoheart

Although TIVC was initially unable to break the Turkish diplomatic traffic encrypted with the special Turkish Aroflex, they later learned the details of the encryption algorith and were able solve it entirely in software. By the late 1980s, the available computing power had increased dramatically, so that a special purpose device was no longer needed to solve the cipher [11].

  1. See Operation RUBICON [10].

WKC/TIVC was one of the first organisations in the Netherlands to use computers for solving cryptographic problems (codebreaking), and had access to a ZEBRA computer as early as 1958 [8]. ZEBRA – short for Zeer Eenvoudige Binaire Reken Automaat (Very Simple Binary Automatic Calculator) – was the first computer to be developed in the Netherlands after the ARRA [12].

In the mid-1960s, the range of computers was extended with the IBM TEMPUS and computers from Bell, DEC, Siemens and Racal [13].

  1. Wikipedia, Militaire Inlichtingendienst (Nederland)
    Retrieved April 2020.

  2. Wikipedia, Strategisch Verbindingsinlichtingen Centrum
    Retrieved April 2020.

  3. Nationaal Veiligheidsarchief /
    Buro Jansen & Janssen. Retrieved April 2020.

  4. Paul Huz, Afluisterpraktijken
    Homow-Universaliz, 13 June 2007.

  5. Prof. Dr. Bart Jacobs, Maximator
    European signal intelligence cooperation, from a Dutch perspective
    Intelligence and National Security, Taylor & Francis Online, 7 April 2020.

  6. Huub Jaspers, De afluistervrienden van Nederland
    VPRO Radio, Argos, 8 April 2020.

  7. Jaime Karremann, Waarom de Russen het Marineterrein in Amsterdam in de gaten hielden
    Website: 11 January 2018.

  8. Gerhard Piper, Abhörstaat Deutschland (Telepolis)...
    ISBN 978-3-95788-028-4 (epub). February 2015. Page 152.

  9. Bob de Graaff en Cees Wiebes, Villa Maarheze
    ISBN 978-901208-219-8. January 1999.

  10. Paul Reuvers and Marc Simons, Operation RUBICON
    Crypto Museum, 19 March 2020.

  11. Anonymous source, about the Aroflex Special Purpose Device
    Interview, March 2020.

  12. Wikipedia, ZEBRA (computer)
    Retrieved April 2020.

  13. Matthew M. Aid and Cees Wiebes,
    Secrets of Signals Intelligence During the Cold War and Beyond

    ISBN 0-7146-8182-2. 2001. Page 255.

  14. M.W. Jensen, G. Platje, De MARID
    ISBN 978-9-010208-375-1, 1997. Page 250.

  15. Peter Müller, Ulrich Stoll & David Ridd, Geheimoperation 'Maximator'
    Frankfurter Rundschau, 1 July 2020.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 12 May 2020. Last changed: Wednesday, 16 December 2020 - 08:30 CET.
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