The Dutch intelligence service has been able to read encrypted communications from dozens of countries since the late 1970s thanks to a microchip, according to research by de Volkskrant on Thursday. The Netherlands could eavesdrop on confidential communication from countries such as Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Philips, together with Siemens, built an encryption machine in the late 1970s. The device, the Aroflex, was used for secret communication between NATO allies. In addition, the companies also wanted to market the T1000CA, a commercial variant of the Aroflex with less strong cryptography.

The Volkskrant investigation shows that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Marine Intelligence Service (MARID) cracked the cryptography of this device before it was launched. Philips helped the ministry and the intelligence service.

Normally it would take at least a month and a half to crack the T1000CA encryption. "Too long to get useful information from intercepted communication," the newspaper writes. But MARID employees, together with Philips, succeeded in accelerating this 2.500 times by developing a special microchip.

The T1000CA was then sold to numerous non-NATO countries, including the Middle East and Asia. These countries could then be overheard by the Dutch intelligence services for years.

The Ministry of Defense does not want to respond to the content of the Volkskrant investigation.

CIA and BND overheard governments for years

It was announced on 11 February that intelligence services CIA and the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) had been intercepting governments for decades. The CIA and the BND were the secret owners of the Swiss company Crypto AG from 1970 onwards. The company sold systems to more than 120 countries that were used to encrypt secret communications.

The devices had to ensure that third parties could not read intercepted communication. But in some countries this encryption was deliberately watered down, so that the CIA and BND could easily decrypt the encrypted messages from governments.

The German intelligence service did not want to help eavesdropping on Turkey, because the country is a member of NATO and is therefore officially an ally. The Dutch BVD (the predecessor of the AIVD) and Philips then came to the aid of the American eavesdropping service NSA, which enabled the Americans to view confidential Turkish communication in the following years, according to research by Argos . A former Philips cryptographer confirmed the involvement of Philips on Saturday.

See also: 'CIA and BND overheard governments for decades, the Netherlands helped'