In 1948, British intelligence confirmed that acoustic and electromagnetic emissions from cipher machines could be intercepted during decryption and read as plain text. This meant that key intelligence among western nations could potentially be intercepted and read by adversaries.

Canadians working for the CBNRC, CSE’s predecessor organization, took up the challenge of tackling this problem. Using standard, off-the-shelf  parts, and for a cost of less than $200, our crypto engineers built the SAPPHIRE – a miniature version of the encryption workhorse at the time, the ROCKEX. The SAPPHIRE had a keyboard input, read key tape, and had an illuminated display output.

It was powered by a hand crank and processed about 10 to 12 characters per minute. Shortly after the British Government Security Headquarters approved the Canadian machine, they improved the design of the mechanical SAPPHIRE with their own battery powered, motor driven machine – the NOREEN.

Before long, the British built NOREEN replaced the SAPPHIRE (still in prototype) and was widely distributed and used by Canada, the UK and her allies.

SAPPHIRE was built by CBNRC crypto engineers with off-the-shelf parts for under $200. Despite being a perfect solution against compromising emissions, it never went past its prototype stage" ( Communications Security Establishment photo)

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Sept 1/21