How a Dutch beer brand helped Britain’s GCHQ break Argentine Encryption during Falklands War


Maximator helped Britain’s GCHQ break Argentine encryption during Falklands War using a backdoor

A beer brand look alike helped the British win the Falklands war with Argentina. The Falklands War aka Guerra de las Malvinas was a 74-day war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982 over the Falkland Islands and the South Sandwich Islands. The British won the war decisively after they dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands.

Now a report by Professor Bart Jacobs of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, reveals the true nature of the war and how it was won by the British by breaking the encryption codes of Argentina by an obscure agency called Maximator.

The Maximator intelligence agency was formed in 1976 with Denmark Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and France as members. It was a European intelligence alliance just like the Five Eyes, comprising of Britain, America, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The primary task of the alliance was to espionage, counterintelligence and eavesdropping on Cold War rival European countries.

Maximator got its name after the famous beer brand in Bavaria. During the first meeting of the European allies, they noticed the beer being served to them was Maximator. They decided to name their alliance after the beer.

How did Maximator help the British to crack Argentine encryption?

British at the time were using Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) to crack Argentine codes. However, they did not know that Argentina was supplied most of its encryption algorithm and hardware by Crypto AG. Crypto AG was owned by the CIA and BND during most of the Cold War. Crypto AG supplied  HC550 and HC570 which use a similar cryptographic algorithm to Argentina in the 1980s. All the algorithms and hardware supplied by Crypto A.G. had backdoors due to its links with BND and the CIA, via their ownership of Crypto AG.

BND shared the information with Maximator who started decrypting Argentina’s naval and diplomatic communications even before the Falklands war started.

The details of this algorithm were shared by the BND within Maximator with TIVC. This enabled the Dutch to read Argentinian naval and diplomatic communications before the war started. As reported by Aldrich and Wiebes, the British SIGINT organisation GCHQ had neglected Argentina. It was not able to read communications secured by Crypto AG devices. When the war started, it asked, under pressure, countries on the European continent for help. A directly involved Dutch source states that at that stage a specialist from TIVC travelled to GCHQ and explained how the HC500 Crypto AG devices for Argentinian naval and diplomatic communications worked; subsequent solution of the ciphers was left to GCHQ itself

Proffessor Jacobs

Maximator shared these inputs with British Intelligence, GHCQ. The result of this was that the British navy knew exactly when and where the Argentine navy would be deployed, the munitions it carried, and total navy men the navy had.  This not only allowed the British to plan their naval barricade effectively, but it also helped them win the Falklands war.


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