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Strategisch Verbindingsinlichtingen Centrum

In the Netherlands, Strategisch Verbindingsinlichtingen Centrum (SVIC) – Strategic Signals Intel­ligence Centre – was a part of the Military Intelligence and Security Agency (MIVD), tasked with traffic- and cryptanalysis (code­breaking) of intercepted foreign military and diplomatic (radio) traffic, an behalf of the Dutch Government and the Dutch Armed Forces. 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 had several partnerships with foreign intelligence agencies, such as the secret Western codebreaking alliance MAXIMATOR [1][2][5].

Although SVIC was initially a military (naval) organisation, operating under the responsibility of the Military Intelligence Service (MIVD), it also worked for, and provided information to, the Dutch civil intelligence service AIVD. In 2014 it was absorbed into the newly established Joint Sigint Cyber Unit (JSCU) of the AIVD and MIVD. The former SVIC unit is currently located in The Hague.

Related subjects on this website
LOCATE - spectrum monitoring system
Secret Western intelligence and codebreaking alliance
Aroflex UA-8116
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 - 2014 SVIC Strategisch Verbindingsinlichtingen Centrum
Strategic Signals Intelligence Centre
2014 - present JSCU Joint Sigint Cyber Unit

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 (2022).

So far, the following partnerships are publicly known:

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 VI 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) — WKC — and was initially located at the attic of Villa Maarheze — home to the Foreign Intelligence Service (IDB) — before moving to 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].

The intercept station in Eibergen — in the eastern part of the province of Gelderland, close to the German border — is used for collection of intelligence on the Short Wave (HF) radio bands. It is built around a so-called LOCATE system, that was supplied by British manufacturer Roke Manor Research. The system consists of 52 so-called Sarsen antennas, arranged in 4 concentric circles, plus a number of underground receivers [17]. By using digital correlation techniques and adaptive digital beam­forming (ADBF), it can be used for Super-Resolution Direction Finding (SRDF), as well as for (omni)directional reception of HF signals in the horizontal and vertical plane (3D).

LOCATE was part of project ROOD, which is short for Radio Ontvangst Omni Directioneel (Omni-Directional Radio Reception). The project was lauched in 1997 and would be the first of its kind in the world [18]. At the time, radio interception was the responsibility of the Dutch National Sigint Organisation (NSO), which has since been merged into the Joint Sigint Cyber Unit (JSCU).

 More about LOCATE

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.

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, Türkiye 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 Türkiye, 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 Türkiye should get secure or rigged machines. 1

The CIA wanted to supply rigged Crypto AG equipment to Türkiye, but BND refused, as Türkiye 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 Philips-made crypto-logic.

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

Türkiye 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, whilst the CIA insisted that the solution of the cipher was kept from Germany. For this reason it was also kept from national partner TIVC [11].

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 so much, 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 other manufacturers like Bell, DEC, Siemens and Racal [13].

In 2008 it was announced that the Dutch Military Intelligence Service (MIVD) had purchased two supercomputers from American manufacturer Silicon Graphics (SGI) [16], just a few months before the latter filed for bankruptcy. The supercomputers were known as Hercules and Hyllus, but these might have been codenames used by the Dutch. In the article it was confirmed that the new supercomputers would be used for codebreaking [16] — typically the responsibility of SVIC.

  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.

  16. Ingelicht, Hercules Computer in Gebruik Genomen
    Dutch MoD, October 2008 - Nr. 5, p. 10.

  17. Ingelicht, Nieuwe antenna in Eibergen komt in zicht
    Dutch MoD, October 2008 - Nr. 5, p. 11 (Dutch).

  18. Ingelicht, Informatieavond Eibergse NSO-buren
    Dutch MoD, October 2007 - Nr. 5, p. 10 (Dutch).
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