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Mils Electronic
Mils Electronic was a manufacturer of cryptographic systems in Mils (Austria). The company was founded in 1947 in Trier (Germany), but moved to Austria in 1967 in order to remain neutral and independent. Although the company supplied various types of cryptographic systems, their main niche was the practical implementation of the inherently secure One-Time Pad (OTP) system.

The current Mils Electronic company logo

In July 2017, following a major restructuring of the company, all development and sales of new cryptographic products was discontinued, whilst the company continued to service the existing maintenance contracts [19]. As of late 2018, Mils seems to have disappeared completely and the website has become defunct. It has since come to light, from leaked BND and CIA documents, that Mils Electronic was under control of western intelligence agencies for a number of years, but it is currently unclear to what extent and how long this control lasted.  More on this topic

 Mils products on this website

The following story was compiled by Crypto Museum, after a long in-depth investigation into the backgrounds of Mils Electronic. This would not have been possible without the kind cooperation of Mils Electronic themselves, who have granted us exclusive access to part of their archives. We are indebted to Susanne Mader, Richard Lahartinger, Thomas Kramer and last but not least former employee Eberhard Scholz. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information presented below is correct, it was often not possible to retrieve the exact date of certain events. In such cases we've made a best possible 'educated' guess.
Mils Electronic was founded in Austria in 1967 by Wilhelm (Willi) Reichert, a German electronics engineer who was born in Breslau (Germany). As Reichert already had an electronics company in Trier (Germany) – at the time (known as Reichert-Elektronik) – we have to go back as far as WWII.

During WWII, Willi Reichert worked as a communications expert for the intelligence section of the German Wehrmacht, where he was involved with the German cipher machines of the era, such as the famous portable Enigma-I machine and the much heavier teleprinter-based Siemens T-52 Geheimschreiber. He was sent to the Eastern Front (Russia), but spend most of his time in France. As a result he spoke French fluently, something which would greatly help him later in life [1].

T-52 Geheimschreiber
Towards the end of the war, the Germans started destroying their cipher machines, to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Nevertheless, a modest number of Enigma machines seem to have survived. Most of these rare machines are now in the hands of museums and collectors.

Throughout the war, the T-52 Geheimschreiber was mainly used over land lines (telex) and was considered to be reliable and extremely secure.

According to Wolfgang Mache, who extensively researched the history of the T-52, approx. 380 of these machines survived the war [2]. After the war, 280 of them ended up at the central store of the German Post Office in Elmshorn, where they were supposed to be destroyed or at least demilitarized. The person responsible for the destruction was Johan Straat (1911-1977), who confirmed that it had been carried out [2].
T-52 Geheimschreiber

In reality however, the machines were neither destructed nor demilitarized. They were just taken apart and the individual parts ended up on the surplus market around 1948, where they were subsequently bought by Willi Reichert. Most of the machines were the T-52d and T-52e models, often referred to as Dora and Emil. Reichert, who had access to the original circuit diagrams, was able to rebuild the machines from the disassembled parts and restore them to their former glory.

The original Reichert Elektronik company logo

Reichert Elektronik
Reichert's company, which was established in 1946 or 1947, was initially called Willi Reichert, Elektronik und Elektromechanik. The name was later changed to Willi Reichert, Werkstätten für Radio- und Fernmeldetechnik and was located at Gütterstraße 1 in Trier (Germany).

In the early 1950s, the company was moved to Sickingenstraße 21 (also in Trier), where Reichert had secured a piece of land on the Petrisberg. A large new two-story building was erected. The building is shown in the image on the right, to the left of the centre. Click for a larger view.

The ground floor was used for the assembly line, whilst the product development took place on the first floor. Reichert, who also was a radio amateur (HAM), had his own office built on top of the first floor, overlooking the city of Trier. On top of the office was Reichert's radio shack.
Photograph courtesy of Eberhard Scholz [1]

The aerial photograph above was taken around 1960 and shows the rather empty space on the Petrisberg in Trier at the time. Click to enlarge. To the left of the main building is the single-story paint shop where the T-52 machines were repainted and cases for other cipher machines were made. At the far right is Willi Reichert's own house. The building at the front is the Wetterwarte (weather service), which is still located there today (2013).

One-Time Pad and the Würfel
Around 1951, all T-52 machines had disappeared from the market. Since 1948, they had been restored by Reichert and most of them were sold to France. Between 1949 and 1953, more than 235 T-52 machines, mainly Dora and Emil models, were delivered to the French Foreign Office and the Army [2]. Initially, the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) payed for these machines [1].

Reichert was not of rich decent and clearly made his first fortune from selling the T-52 machines to the French. It allowed him to buy the land and build the offices and the house shown above [1].

In the early 1950s, Reichert saw the supply of T-52 machines coming to an end and knew he had to find a new niche. Around the same time, he was asked by the German Government in Bonn to develop a true Random Number Generator (RGN) for the production of One-Time Tapes (OTT): tapes of which only two copies existed, which were both destroyed imediately after use.
Image from patent DE958933 of a noise generator. Click to see the full patent.

OTT keys were used in combination with the so-called Mixer Machines, like the war-time T-43 and the post-war ETCRRM. When used with truely random key sequences, the code generated by such cipher machines is unbreakable. In the past however, the tapes were often produced by means of mechanical (pseudo-random) devices, which made them predictable. The government wanted an encryption method that allowed their messages to remain secret indefinitely.

Luckily, Dr. Werner Liebknecht of C. Lorenz AG in Stuttgart (Germany) had just invented a noise generator for manufacturing truely random key tapes. The patent (DE958933) was filed on 8 June 1952 and describes a method for using the noise from a Thyratron valve to drive a flip-flop and create a truely random bit-stream from that.

The circuit diagram above was extracted from that patent. The top half of the diagram is the actual pulse generator. With five such circuits (one for each bit of a 5-level tape) a true 5-bit random number generator could be created.
The fist random tape puncher: Würfel

Reichert managed to secure the patent from Liebknecht and develop it further into what became his first own product: the so-called Würfel or Würfelgenerator: an electronic variant of the dice. The image above shows an original Würfel that was used by the German Goverment around 1955.

The noise generator was combined with a paper tape puncher into a complete machine for the production of key tapes. Nearly all parts for the machine were built in-house and even the cases were made and sprayed in their own paint shop.

Initially the tape readers were bought from another manufacturer (probably Siemens), but later Reichert developed his own tape puncher that was also sold to the manufacturers of the first generation of computers. The image on the right shows the Perfodatex tape puncher in an external case with a paper tape reel at the top.
Reichert's first paper tape puncher, the Datica 100 [15]. Click for a larger view.

The Würfel was able to punch two paper tapes simultaneously, making it the ideal companion for governments that wanted to use One-Time Pad encryption. The development of the noise generator and the tape duplicator appeared to have been a good idea as the device would be kept in production for the next few decades. Some countries had developed their own noise generator, as they didn't want to use a foreign one. To accomodate these customers, Reichert supplied a cut-down version of the Würfel, that was effectively just the tape duplicator.

Foreign sales
During the first years, Reichert was the only sales manager of the company. As a result he had to travel a lot and was often away from home. Reichert liked to visit his customers personally and mainly travelled by car. His first marriage, from which two sons were born, ended around 1962. He later married Ute Reis, also from Trier, after which two more children were born.

Reichert successfully used his good contacts, especially with the German, Belgian and Spanish authorities, for selling his products within Europe. But when he lost an order from the German Government to a British supplier, something that he had really counted on, he started addressing customers outside Europe as well. Through his knowledge of the French and the French language, he managed to establish good contacts in countries such as Morroco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

Other products
Between 1952 and 1962, the random number generator was the main pillar on which the company was built. In the early 1960s, Reichert tried his luck on a number of different - non crypto-related - products in order to make the company less dependent on cipher machines.

The first product in this range was a device for measuring radio-active radiation. At the height of the Cold War, the threat of an all-out nuclear war seemed very real, and the authorities asked Reichert to develop a hand-held unit to measure the level of radio activity after a nuclear attack.

The resulting Strahlungsmessgerät Atomat WR54 is shown in the leaflet on the right. Especially for testing the devices with a radioactive source, a deep underground shielded bunker was built on the premises. Two patents, DE1200446 and DE1205199, were filed to protect the designs.

The WR54 was later followed by the improved Atomat WR57, but never sold in the quantities that had been anticipated, due to the ever strong competition. A lot of money went into the small Atomat, which was intended to become the company's second pillar. But rather than a new money-maker, it turned out to be a mere flop.

In parallel to the Atomat, Reichert developed a series of remote control devices for model airplanes. At least four patents – DE1159545, DE1148607, DE1838654 and DE1839463 – were filed for this project between 1961 and 1971.
Click to see more

The Remote Control (RC) transmitters were housed in a sturdy metal case that was carried on the chest in a brown leather bag, similar to the ones used for photocameras in those days. Like most RC transmitters of the era, they worked in the 27MHz band (in the US known as: Citizen's Band).

The transmitter was accompanied by a very small cubical receiver that could be expanded from 3 to 5 and even to 9 channels, using small plug-in units. Intermitted tone signals were used to control the various channels of the receiver (DE1159545). From 1962 onwards, the RC units were marketed under the TELECONT brand.

The Image on the right show an expanded TELECONT transmitter in its typical brown leather photocamera-style carrying case (left) and an expanded receiver (right). Today, TELECONT transmitters are collector's items.
Photograph copyright Karl-Heinz Schmid. Reproduced here with kind permission from the author [6].

The sale of the TELECONT was not very successful and Reichert teamed up with the well-known model airplane company Robbe, where the range appeared in the 1964 catalogue [7]. Although the production of remote control devices lasted for several years, it was never a great success and didn't bring the financial relief that was needed after the expensive Atomat project. There was a strong competition from Japan and in 1965, Robbe moved over to the Japanese Futaba [6].

In order to gain new capital, the company was changed into a GmbH (Ltd) around 1962 and was renamed to Reichert-Elektronik GmbH & Co. KG. At least one new shareholder was attracted: mr. von Metsch, a representative of a well-known steel company in the German Ruhr area.

Back to the roots
By the end of the 1950s, Reichert-Elektronik had between 20 and 30 employees. Eberhard Scholz, who's verbal account helped putting this story together, joined the company in 1957, shortly after the move to Sickingenstraße 21. Like Reichert, he was borm in Breslau and was educated as Electronics Engineer. He became responsible for the development of the future cipher machines.

Scholz' first assignment (around 1960) was the development of a central system for the random number generator. It resulted in a large 19" rack­mount system that was called STG-5001. It was capable of driving up to 10 random tape punchers simultaneously. The system was developed by popular demand from the major customers, and was met with great enthusiasm, even in countries like Belgium.

The 19" rack consisted of seven units, four of which were power supplies. The other units were the random noise generator, a control unit and a synchronizer. The STG-5001 was later improved and became the STG-5002, followed a few years later by the STG-5003 shown on the right.

The machine shown in the image is a complete and functional STG-5003, that was used for many years by the German Government. Once it was was decomissioned, probably in the early 1970s, it became part of the internal museum of the German Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI), the German Federal Office for Information Security. In 2012, the BSI museum was closed and the 5003 was donated to the Communications Museum in Frankfurt (Germany) where it is currently stored [17].
The STG-5003, a later version of the 5001 developed by Scholz

Up to this point, all random number generators were equipped with valves and many of them were operated day and night. It was Scholz' task to redesign the existing equipment and use the recently introduced transistor technology, making the machines smaller and more reliable.

The image on the right shows the 5224, which was the improved transistorized version of the Würfel. It was developed in the early 1960s and has many improvements over the original design. It now contained a tape reader that was used to check wether the holes had actually been punched. It also had a double set of counters: one for counting the holes before punching and one for counting them afterwards.

Like all Reichert devices, it was housed in a grey hammerite metal case. Apart from the grey colour it wasn't changed for the next 20 years.
Click to see more

In the meantime, Willi Reichert had a good relationship with the German authorities with whom he had arranged that they would buy a fixed number of cipher machines each year. In return, Reichert would refrain from attracting new foreign customers. This agreement worked quite well for a long time, but the bad financial position resulting from the ill fated Atomat project put the deal under pressure and Reichert had to find alternative ways of gathering new capital.

Neutral Austria
When Germany joined NATO, on 9 May 1955, new trade regulations made it increasinly difficult for the company to export its encryption systems to non-NATO countries, such as Morocco, Tunesia, Algeria and Egypt, and Reichert started playing with the thought to gradually pull the profitable cipher machine business completely out of Reichert-Elektronik. In 1963 or 1964 he instructed Scholz to develop a fully electronic mixing cipher machine (mixer) outside of the office, in his own time, so that it would not become known to Reichert's co-shareholder Metsch.

Scholz did what was asked of him and developed a fully transistorized mixing cipher machine that made full use of the company's random tape generators. This project was an instant success and put Reichert back into the spotlights again. Over 100 mixers were built and Reichert sold all of them to the existing customer base, without informing Metsch, whom he never really liked.

One way or another, Reichert managed to keep the income from the new sales separate and outside the view of his companion, and used it as the starting capital for his next big step.
Willi Reichert in 1975 [1]

With the income from the successful sale of the mixer machines, Reichert was able to buy a few pieces of land in Mils, just east of Innsbruck (Austria), and build a new company there. Austria was chosen as the new domicile, because Reichert already had good contacts with a business man in Vienna and one in Innsbruck. More importantly however: Austria was (and still is) a neutral country which is not part of NATO. As such, he would not be bound by NATO regulations and would be able to expand his customer base. Moving to Austria was probably his smartest move.

The original Mils Elektronik company logo

Mils Elektronik
The new company was named Mils Elektronik GesmbH & Co. KG and was founded in 1965 or 1966 by Willi Reichert, with two so-called sleeping partners as investors. The investors, one from Austria and one from Switzerland, each had good contacts with the authorities in their countries, which didn't harm the new company of course. In practice, Reichert made all the decisions alone. The new company logo is shown above. It was a modernised version of the old Reichert logo.

In the beginning, whilst the new company building wasn't yet available, the development of new products still took place in Trier, albeit at a different -smaller- location, whilst the machines were built in a tax-free zone in Hall (Austria).

With the move to Austria, Reichert took the blueprints of the profitable designs, the main developers and also the existing customer base with him, leaving Reichert-Elektronik in Trier in a rather depleted state. Initially the building it Trier was still owned by Reichert, but eventually he sold it to his former business partner(s).
The former site of Reichert-Elektronik in Trier in 1988. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].

Initially, only the administration of the new company was in Mils, and the main developers had to travel between Trier and Austria regularly. In 1966, Willi Reichert permently moved over to his new house in Mils and a year later, when the new company building at Dorfstraße 20 in Mils was ready, development and production were moved to Mils as well. Finally in 1969, senior developer Eberhard Scholz bought a house in Mils and also moved over permanently.

What happened to Reichert-Elektronik in Trier is currently unknown. After the profitable cipher machine business had been moved to Mils, the German company kept trading for a while and manufactured passive components, such as wire-wound resistors, for the Army. The company was likely dissolved later, due to lack of revenue. Years later, in 1988, Eberhard Scholz visited the former site at Sickingenstraße 21 in Trier-Petrisberg again, where he took the image above. The new owner had just begun restoration of the buildings. Reichert's former office and radio shack had been replaced by a new tilted rooftop. At the front left is the former paint shop.

Photograph courtesy of Eberhard Scholz [1]
The buildings at Sickingenstraße 21 in Trier around 1962.
The former site of Reichert-Elektronik in Trier in 1988. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].
The old Reichert-Elektronik building in Trier as it looks in 2013, from approx. the same angle as the black and white photograph of 1962.
The old Reichert-Elektronik building in Trier in 2013, seen from a different angle.

System 67
The first developments in Mils (Austria) concentrated around System 67 or MEA67, a family of machines, consisting of Random Key Generators, Tape Duplicators, paper tape punchers, paper tape readers and a synchronization system. All machines were completely built in-house and were based on the previous generation of random generators like the Reichert Elektronik 5224.

The A-6723 was a modern (transistorized) version of the earlier valve-based 5224 key generator that was developed in the early 1960s back in Trier. It consisted of a true random number generator (noise source) with a double tape puncher mounted on top. The image on the right shows a typical A-6723 key generator which is now part of Mils' own cipher collection.

At the front are a series of pulse counters that are used to count the total number of characters generated by the machine, but also the number of individual holes punched into each channel.
The 6723 tape duplicator

The counters were effectively used to monitor the correct operation of the key generator. If the characters generated by the A-6723 were truely random, each of the five bit channels should produce an equal number of ones and zeros (i.e. an equal number of punched holes).

Drawing from Austrian Patent 370931, showing the 5 synchronized machines.

Central to the system was the A-6700, a so-called Elektronische Welle (electronic axle) that had the ability to synchronize up to five A-6723 key generators. It was developed by Eberhard Scholz and was patented in Austria in 1980 (AT370931). It consists of a control unit (ST), visible at the top right, to which five key generators (WL1-WL5) are connected. A common key generator (ZG) is visible at the top left. The system is fully programmable through a separate paper tape reader (PL) that is used to control the way in which the letters, number and groups are organized.

During the next decade, the business developed very well for Mils Elektronik. The image on the right shows fouding father Willi Reichert on the Mils Elektronik stand at the ITU World Telecom Exhibition in Geneva in 1975 (click to enlarge).

Behind Reichert we can see part of the MEA-67 system described above. From the right: the famous A-6723 key tape puncher, the LSS-A-6706 Programme Tape Transmitter, a master key generator and a TT-360 mixer consisting of a 304 control unit with two 305 tape readers (the actual mixer) and a separate 306 tape puncher.
Willi Reichert at the Telecom conference in Geneva in 1975. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].

At this stage, the TT-360 was still the mainstream cipher machine in the Mils-range. Being a mixer, it was the ideal companion to the A-6723. When the first microprocessors became available in the mid-1970s, Mils Elektronik made the bold move from electro-mechanical cipher machines to microprocessor-based fully-electronic cipher machines and random key generators, such as the System 800 described below. In the late-1970s, Mils also offered a variety of civil and military secure voice solutions, both for telephone networks and for use over radio.

Willi Reichert at the Telecom conference in Geneva in 1975. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].
The Mils Elektronik stand at the Telecom conference in Geneva in 1975. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].
The Mils Elektronik stand at the Telecom conference in Geneva in 1975. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].
The Mils Elektronik stand at the MEDE in Wiesbaden in 1976. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].
The Mils Elektronik stand at the Telecom conference in Geneva in 1979. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].
The Mils Elektronik stand at the Telecom conference in Geneva in 1979. Photograph by Eberhard Scholz [1].

Crown prince
In the late 1970s, Will Reichert felt it was time to find a successor who could lead the company into the next decade. Intially, he wanted Eberhard Scholz to take over the company, but Scholz was an engineer with heart and soul and declined. He had no interest in becoming involved with sales and mangement, and didn't share Reichert's desire to travel around the globe.

Reichert then found a new partner in Torsten Hartmann from Munich (Germany), an Electronic Engineer who worked on the development of voice encryption systems at TST Timmann GmbH in Tuzing (near Munich, Germany). Initially, Hartmann only worked part-time for Mils Elektronik and travelled between Munich and Mils regularly, but Reichert later persuaded him to move over full-time. Hartmann had good contactual skills and soon established a good relationship with the customers and employees at Mils Elektronik, something that pleased both Reichert and Scholz.

As a result, Hartmann was accepted as Reicherts future successor and was treated as such. After approximately one year however, a huge conflict arose between Reichert and Hartmann, causing permanent damage to the relationship between the two. Reichert, probably out of wounded pride, decided to sell his shares in the company and persuaded the other two shareholders (i.e. the sleeping partners) to do the same. The shares were then sold to mr. Paul Huskell of EPI [1]. 1

Reichert left the company, but not before he had made copies of the secret designs and circuit diagrams of the old machines and of the current developments. He wanted to use the intellectual property (IP) to make a fresh new start once again and tried to persuade Eberhard Scholz to come with him again, just as they had done in the mid-1960s. This time however, Scholz declined. He did not want to follow Reichert's uncertain path and decided to stay with the company.

  1. Paul Huskell was a Belgian entrepeneur who had invested in several large and medium-size companies. Over the years he developed great sympathy for the company, and when he retired in the 1990s, he decided not to sell Mils Electronic, but to put the shares in a trust, thereby securing Mils' future.

The Inter-Elektronik logo aside the original Mils Elektronik company logo

When he left, Reichert took the head of the assembly department and one more employee with him and founded a new company by the name of Inter-Elektronik in Zug (Switzerland), where he developed similar products and targetted the existing Mils customer base. Confusingly, the new Inter-Elektronik company logo (above) was merely a copy of the original Mils Elektronik logo.

For the existing customers it was a very confusing time, as they didn't know where to buy. For Mils Elektronik, the future was initially uncertain, but eventually most customers stayed with the more stable Tirol-based company. Reichert had initially moved away from his beloved Tirol, but came back to Innsbruck in 1994 when his health began playing up. For a while he traded from his appartment in Innsbruck but Inter-Elektronik did not survive and was dissolved in February 1996. Later that year, on 4 July, Reichert passed away after a short illness. He is burried in Mils [18].

 More about Inter-Elektronik

Reichert's departure brought back balance to Mils Elektronik and for several years the company was jointly led by Torsten Hartmann and Eberhard Scholz. In contacts with customers, both at Mils and on site, Scholz' knowledge of the French culture proved to be a great asset. A serious problem with his hearing however, prevented him from continuing. He stayed on until 1989 and led the development of the Mils Stream Cipher and of new members of the System 800 family.

Torsten Hartmann left Mils Elektronik in 1992 in order to try his luck in the former DDR (East-Germany). After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, he saw great opportunities in the former communist republic. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as expected. Following the death of his former employer Klaus-Peter Timmann in 2002, he took over his company Tele Security Timmann (TST) in Tutzing (Germany), but was unable to turn it into a profitable enterprise again. In 2006 he sold TST to investor Michael Bursy and retired.

In the late 1970s, Mils introduced System 800, a series of devices for (random) key generation and secure data communication, based on OTP and OTT technology. It was intended to replace the ageing MEA-67 series and was the first range from Mils Elektronik that could distribute the randomly created keys not only on punched paper tape, but also on 5¼" floppy discs.

All members of the 800-family were build around the latest single-chip microcontrollers that had become available since the mid-1970s. The first one was the ME-800 key generator.

As microcontrollers allowed a far greater level of integration, Mils Elektronik developed their first truely portable pocket-size cipher machine: the PCCM-4000. Measuring under 16 x 10 x 3 cm, is was about the size of a small desktop calculator and could easily be carried in the pocket of a coat. The device was powered by three AA-type batteries allowing 7 hours of uninterrupted use.
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A few years later the PCCM-4000 was followed by the larger but more expandable ME-540, a small portable cipher machine that resembled the pocket computers of the 1980s, albeit in a thicker case to provide space for the electronics. It was aimed at travelling business men.

The ME-540 could be expanded with a thermal printer, a modem with acoustic coupler and a power supply unit, and was often carried in an executive-style briefcase. With the modem, the ME-540 could be used from virtually any type of telephone, anywhere in the world, without the need for a physical connection.

The ME-540, allowed Mils Electronics to compete with similar designs from other manufacturers, such as the Hagelin HC-530, the Gretacoder 805 and the Philips Miniflex.
ME-540 portable cipher machine

System 600
In the mid 1980s, the personal computer came up and portable computers started to appear on the market. Nevertheless, the internet and e-mail as we know it today, wasn't yet available to the general public. For sending messages, the existing methods, such as plain letters (mail), fax and telex, were still heavily used. The existing customers kept using paper tape-based telex systems, but recognised the importance of computer systems as future communication platforms.

In 1986, the microprocessor-based System 600 family was introduced. It was intended to replace the 800-series and supported key storage on a variety of storage media, including punched paper tape, paper sheets (in order to produce real OTPs), floppy discs, memory cards, etc.

The first member of the 600-family was the ME-640 shown here, an off-line telex cipher unit (mixer) that could be used with One-Time Tape (OTT), but also had a built-in key generator that could be used as an alternative when One-Time Tapes were not available or had run out.
Mils ME-640 OTT cipher machine

In the following years, the range was extended with several Key Generators, such as the ME-600, ME-602, M-612, M-614 and the M-615. The family was completed by the M632 cipher machine. As tape-based systems were still widely used, the 600-range survived well into the 1990s.

To fill a gap in the portfolio, Mils Elektronik also introduced the Secure Telephone; a highly secure unit for voice and data encryption that was about the same size as a standard PSTN telephone set. It was in fact a rebatched Philips PNVX that was aprroved by NATO and by the Dutch Government for voice and data communication up to the level of TOP SECRET.

The image on the right shows the PNVX. It was far less bulky than the secure speech unit sold by Mils in the mid-1970s, and could easily be placed on a desktop or carried in a briefcase.
The Philips PNVX, sold by Mils as the Secure Telephone. Click for more information.

At the heart of the Secure Telephone was an LPC-10 vocoder that produced a typical 'synthesized' sound. For encryption and decryption, Philips' in-house developed proprietary OQ4434 crypto processors were used. The same crypto chip was used in the so-called Fax Encryptor, which was in fact a rebatched Philips PFDX. It was inserted between the fax machine and the telephone line.

The short-lived animated company logo

The computer era
In the mid-1990s, the personal computer (PC) began taking over most of the existing methods of data communication. As it would soon dominate over the old teleprinter systems (telex), Mils Elektronik introduced the System 700, a family of devices for secure data exchange and data storage, offering the same advantages as the earlier 800 series, but then for use with a PC. At the same time, the familiar atom-based company logo was replaced by a more trendy animated one.

A system usually consisted of an M-705 network manager and several M-730 works stations. It supported both distributed key and One-Time Pad (OTP) security, and had the tamper-proof security module, shown on the right, at its heart.

In the late 1990s, the System 700 products were succeeded by a brand new family of encryption products: System 200. Starting with a secure message system, called MilsMail, it was the first product that offered unbreakable encryption for e-mail traffic, due to the use of One-Time Pad (OTP) technology; a long-standing Mils tradition.
The Mils M-775 PCMCIA security module

To provide optimum security, the key module from the 700-series was used again: the M-775 PCMCIA card, that was renamed MilsCard (M-275). Most early laptops had a PCMCIA slot, so that the card could be used directly. For use on a desktop PC, a suitable PCMCIA interface had to be installed. For generation of the OTP keys, an extra PC card with a noise generator was used.

The current Mils Electronic company logo

Mils Electronic
At the start of 2003, the name Mils Elektronik was changed to the more international spelling Mils Electronic, and the website was changed accordingly. At the same time, the stylish new professionally designed company logo, shown above, was introduced. As more and more products are (partially) software-based these days, the company is gradually moving away from hardware-only solutions. Hence, the extension 'electronic' is presented in a smaller typeface.

During the 2000s, the System 200 range has been expanded with a number of contemporary encryption products, such as MilsCourier, MilsMessage, MilsOne and MilsVPN. As PCMCIA interfaces are getting less common on modern PCs, MilsCard was redesigned and replaced by a USB stick with the same name: MilsCard M286.

In 2008, Mils Electronic moved to a new building at the current address Leopold-Wedl-Straße 16, just over 100 metres from the previous location. At the same time, the website was given a complete fresh contemporary makeover.
The new Mils Electronic building in 2013. Photograph supplied by Mils Electronic.

Over the years, Mils Electronic has gradually evolved from purely mechanical machines, through electronics, to IP-based systems. Whilst other companies have abandonned the OTP in favour of Public Key Encryption systems (PKE), Mils have remained loyal to the only truely unbreakable cipher, by finding new - modern - ways of implementing it. At the same time, Mils also provides state-of-the-art algorithm-based systems, such as the Mils Block Cipher (MBC). All systems are protected by the USB MilsCard that has a dedicated M-111 cryptographic processor at its heart.

The MilsCard M-286 that is used for protection of all Mils products.

Until 2017, Mils Electronic supplied their encryption products to customers in over 60 countries [1]. In the more than 60 years of its existence, the company went through tough times, but survived them all. More importantly: Mils was never involved in any security scandal whatsoever. With a flawless and successful track record, Mils Electronic remained one of the last independent, privately-held, self-financed manufacturers of cryptographic equipment in the world.

In June of 2017 — following a major restructuring of the company — development and sales of all cryptographic products was discontinued, and the majority of the staff was dismissed. The offices were moved to Innsbruck (Austria), where a small staff continues to provide services for existing maintenance contracts. Existing customers can still contact the company via e-mail or telephone.

In 2020 it was revealed – in leaked CIA and BND documents related to Operation RUBICON – that for a number of years, Mils was under control of the German BND. This dates back to the days when the company was located in Trier (Germany), and continued after the move to Mils (Austria). In the mid-1990s, the company came under control of the American CIA, but this happened largely outside the view of the BND and most likely outside the view of the Mils employees [20].

The extent of this BND/CIA control is currently unclear, and may have been a denial operation, in which certain products are not sold to certain customers. If any algorithms were rigged, it is very unlikely that Mils products based on One-Time Pad (OTP) or One-Time Tape (OTT) systems were affected, as such systems are inherently secure when used correctly. According to former Mils employees, customers of the OTP/OTT systems always generated and distributed their own keys.

For the protection of sensitive material, Mils Electronic offers two encryption methods:

  1. One-Time Pad Encryption
    When correctly used, OTP encryption is the only way to keep sensitive material secret, not only for a certain period, but forever. Although many companies have abandonned OTP technology, Mils Electronic has found new practicable ways of implementing it. Too good to be true? Read this document that gives the mathematical proof for this claim [14].

  2. Algorithm-based Encryption
    For situations where One-Time Pad Encryption is not practicable, or for situations where sufficient supply of OTP keys can not be guaranteed, Mils offers the in-house developed Mils Block Cipher (MBC), that can be customized at will. It combines the best of the current mainstream block ciphers, such as AES, into a single product.

Historical products
Below is a non-exhaustive list of historical products that have been manufactured by Mils over the years. If you have any information about a Mils Electronic device that is not listed here, please contact us and send us some pictures and, if possible, documentation.

Reichert Elektronik
  • Würfel
  • Datica 100
  • Perfodatex 300
  • Cryptomatic
  • 5224, tape duplicator
Product families
Key Generators
Portable cipher machines
Desktop cipher machines
Current products
At present, the following products of the System 200 family are available from Mils. Please refer to the Mils Electronic website for detailed information.

  • MilsCard
  • MilsCourier
  • MilsMessage
  • MilsOne
  • MilsVPN
Current address
  • Mils Electronic GesmbH & Co.KG
    Sparkassenplatz 2 / 515
    6020 Innsbruck, Austria

    Phone: +43 (0)512 552500
Previous address
  • Mils Electronic GesmbH & Co.KG
    Leopold-Wedl-Straße 16
    6068 Mils, Austria

    Phone: +43 (0)5223 57710-0
    Fax: +43 (0)5223 57710-110
Help required
We are currently looking for Mils Electronic cipher machines in order to expand our collection. As we don't have any Mils devices at present, any contribution, regardless how large or small, would be most welcome. If you have any documentation, brochures, manuals or equipment from Mils, please contact us.

Related patents
  1. Werner Liebknecht, German Patent DE958933
    C. Lorenz AG, Stuttgart (Germany). 8 June 1952.

  2. Josef Schreiner (Tawern), German Patent DE1159545
    Anordnung zur Steuerung eines Relais durch ein intermittierendes Tonfrequenzsignal.
    Reichert-Elektronik GmbH und Co. KG. Trier. 29 April 1961.

  3. Josef Schreiner (Tawern), German Patent DE1148607
    Schaltung zur Modulation einer elektrischen Hochfrequenzschwingung für die Funkfernsteuerung mit mehreren Niederfrequenzen.
    Reichert-Elektronik GmbH und Co. KG. Trier. 17 March 1961.

  4. Hans-Georg Loseries (Tawern), Edgar Koch (Trier), German Patent DE 1200446
    Schaltungsanordnung für tragbare Strahlungsmeßgeräte, insbesondere Dosisleistungsmesser.
    Reichert-Elektronik GmbH und Co. KG. Trier. 11 March 1963.

  5. Günter Bienek (Trier), Hans-Georg Loseries (Tawern), German Patent DE1205199
    Gerät zum Messen der Dosisleistung van Gamma-Strahlung und zum Nachweis von Beta-Strahlung. Reichert-Elektronik GmbH und Co. KG. Trier. 28 February 1965.

  6. German Patent DE1838654, Gehäuse für Fernsteuerungsempfänger
    Reichert-Elektronik GmbH und Co. KG. Trier. 27 April 1961.

  7. German Patent DE1839463, Bedienungshebelanordnung für Fernsteuersender
    Reichert-Elektronik GmbH und Co. KG. Trier. 9 AUgust 1961.

  8. Günter Mues (Trier), German Patent DE 2039117
    Speicher für Endlosstreifen (German), Memory for endless tape.
    Reichert Elektronik GmbH & Co, KG. 5500 Trier. 6 August 1972.

  9. Ebarhard Scholz (Mils, Austria), German Patent DE2237494
    Anlage zur Übermittlung von Informationen mehrerer dezentraler Schreibstellen an eine Lochstreifenzentrale.
    Willi Reichert, 8000 München. 31 July 1972.

  10. Reichert-Elektronik GmbH, German Patent DE7029630
    Speicher für endlose Lochstreifen. Trier, Sickingenstraße 21. 1 August 1970.

  11. Reichert-Elektronik GmbH, German Patent DE7122249
    Vorrichtung zum Stanzen und Lesen von Lochstreifen.
    rier, Sickingenstraße 21. 2 September 1971.

  12. Eberhard Scholz, Austrian Patent AT370931
    System, bestehend aus mehreren, jeweils zur herstellung eines
    Schlüssellochstreifenpaares eingerichteten Streifenlochern (German).
    Mils Elektronik GmbH. 23 January 1980.
  1. Eberhard Scholz, Reichert and Mils employee from 1957 to 1989.
    Verbal account of Mils Electronic history. Recorded on 21 July 2005 in Mils (Austria).
    Edited by Richard Lahartinger and Thomas Kramer. 1

  2. Wolfgang Mache, Der Siemens-Geheimschreiber
    ein Betrag zur Geschichte der Telekommunikation 1992: 60 Jahre Schlüsselfernschreibmachine. Archiv für deutsche Postgeschichte (German).
    1992, Heft 2, pp. 85-94.

  3. Frode Weierud, BP's Sturegeon, The FISH That Laid No Eggs
    The Rutherford Journal, Volume 1, 2005-2006. PDF version, p. 29.

  4. Google Maps, Sickingenstraße 21 in Trier today
    Retrieved June 2013.

  5. Werner Liebknecht, German Patent DE958933
    C. Lorenz AG, Stuttgart (Germany). 8 June 1952.

  6. Karl-Heinz Schmid, Images of TELECONT transmitter and receiver
    Website. Retrieved June 2013.

  7. Robbe, Robbe Katalog
    Extract of the relevant pages. Source unknown.

  8. Mils Electronic Website
    Retrieved June 2013.

  9. Wikipedia, NATO
    Retrieved June 2013.

  10. Mils Electronic, The Secret of Unconditional Security
    Old company brochure. 12 pages, full-colour. Date unknown but probably 2001.

  11. Mils Elektronik, Initial website
    29 June 1998. Retrieved via WayBack Machine, June 2013.

  12. Mils Electronic, New website
    2 January 2003. Retrieved via WayBack Machine, June 2013.

  13. Mils Electronic, New website after 2008 makeover
    7 September 2008. Retrieved via WayBack Machine, June 2013.

  14. Mils Electronic, One Time Pad Encryption, The unbreakable method
    Popular description and mathematical proof of the OTP (English).
    May 2003. 16 pages, full-colour.

  15. Helmut 'Jim' Meyer, HS0ZHK, My way to Ham - Radio and beyond
    Website QRZ.COM. Personal correspondence. Retrieved July 2013.

  16. Crypto Museum, Interview at Mils Electronic
    2 August 2013.

  17. Crypto Museum, Reichert Elektronik Würfel and STG-5003
    Frankfurt, Museum fur Kommunikation, 7 June 2012.

  18. Mils Zeitung, Willy Reichert Todesanzeige
    Mils Newspaper. Death announcement. 4 July 1996.

  19. Mils Electronic, Personal correspondence
    January 2018.

  20. Crypto Museum, Operation RUBICON
    February 2020.
  1. Internal document kindly supplied by Mils Electronic. June 2013.

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