The Australian domestic spy agency has a great sense of humor. It also has a serious marketing pizzazz to cash in on its major brand power. When ASIO is not striving to track down terrorists and unwarranted foreign influence over corporate and government affairs, the agents do not mind having a devious dig at the ever-changing crypto scene.
With over 70 years of surveilling revolutionaries, communists, and sporadic property developers, ASIO acknowledged that it is now aiming to release a special 50 cent coin. According to the Royal Australian Mint’s marketing material:
“One-Time Pad’ key that was used by operatives during the Cold War, to encrypt and decode secret messages”
It urges collectors to pile into this release for:
“An exclusive opportunity to win the only 70th Anniversary of ASIO 2019 50c Proof coin minted”.
This new ASIO coin campaign is called ‘coincryption’ which might be a thinly disguised financial intelligence attempt at spivvy cryptos and their activities of reinventing the anonymity provided by cash. Also, the promotional materials may have redacted images of a code on the coin with a legible red ‘Top Secret’ stamp. That represents a case of massive over-classification if ever any existed.
The Mint can have rattled for $10 per uncirculated coin. That shows the spy agency may have taken a pay-to-play strategy. That price of $10 is a 20-time mark-up over the face value of this legal tender. The price of entry buys collectors and budding crackers take just one shot at demystifying the code through a cipher that ship with the new coin.
“The winner will need to provide proof of purchase from the Royal Australian Mint, with the transaction dated between 9 September 2019 and 2 December 2019,” conditions state. Also, “the winner will also need to provide proof of identity and residence.”
Ross MacDiarmid, the Mint’s chief, said that:
“The encrypted code” on the coin is similar to that used by operatives during the Cold War. During the 1940s and 1950s the Soviet intelligence service, the KGB, used One-Time Pads to encrypt their cables to and from Moscow.”
According to the Mint’s hard crypto currency sell, poor and dilapidated encryption practices resulted in the 5-EYES allies decrypting various cables under Operation VENONA. That decryption revealed the presence of a Soviet spy ring that is active in Australia. In turn, it made the UK urge Australia to set up a security service that ended up with the birth of ASIO in 1949.
Duncan Lewis, the outgoing ASIO Director-General, is closely monitoring that affair. He said:
“This project has been a wonderful collaboration between the Royal Australian Mint and ASIO. Spooks and spies [a travelling exhibition on the history of ASIO] is an intriguing theme and often the stuff of novels and film. It is exciting to see this theme interpreted in such a creative and enduring way”.
However, several discrete touches to the coin face go beyond the code. That brings ASIO’s previously covert marketing and merchandising activities out into the open. They now added the spy agency’s corporate mascot, a scorpion, which is embossed onto its surface.
The somewhat toxic armoured critter is normally emblazoned onto ASIO’s local house merch. It swaps several other spook agencies that normally arise on eBay of hands out to their members on retirement.
The toxic animalia is a recurrent theme in intelligence community branding. Notably, the United States National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency seem to have made this 10-sided ‘challenge coin’ that has an arachnid motif resembles a redback spider. According to the Mint, 20,000 uncirculated ASIO coins will be produced.