To Avoid Cyber Espionage, Russia's Switching Back To Typewriters

Hackers aren't going anywhere any time soon, so Russian spies are wising up and taking their most sensitive intelligence offline. Not offline like off the internet. Offline like off computers altogether.

The Russian state procurement agency FSO recently announced that it was interested in spending up to 486,000 rubles (about $15,000) on at least 20 old fashioned typewriters to handle top secret documents. After all, cyber security isn't an issue when ink and tree are involved.

The plan is more sophisticated than that though. Every typewriter bears a slightly different pattern of type so it would be possible to trace every single document produced by the new bank of typewriters back to an individual machine. A source of the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia says that the change of tack was prompted by recent major security breaches. "After scandals with the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the exposes by Edward Snowden, reports about Dmitry Medvedev being listened in on during his visit to the G20 summit in London, it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents," said the source.

Pretty clever, huh? With Snowden and WikiLeaks and all that jazz, why don't we just switch back to paper here in the USA? Probably because it's not expensive enough. When something don't work in this country, we just throw money at the problem like good capitalists. Earlier this week, for instance, we learned that the Economic Development Administration in the Department of Commerce spent over $US2.7 million getting malware off a few computers.

Why not just replace all that buggy, hackable hardware with typewriters? [AFP]

Picture: Flickr/xlibber



    Ha... it will be exactly the same kind of idiot thinking behind this as what happened with the malware in the US- some genius head of department probably though it was such an amazing idea and wondered why no one else thought of it before...
    Yeah, just go back 30 or 40 years and see how insecure intelligence was then and also how hard it was to transfer information between departments, and NOW how easy it is to forge or disguise the origins of paper documents that have "different patterns of type".

    Although Russia's decision may seem surprising, it really shouldn't be. The last line of defence against a spy in most allied countries are still filing cabinets with 4mm or thicker steel walls. Even now, paper documents are treated as the base form of information storage in intelligence agencies, with every photocopy numbered and their movements tracked to leave an audit trail – something which is a lot harder to enforce with digital documents. Still, 86,000 rubles for 20 typewriters is a bit extravagant, don't you think?

    Read more about the ramifications of using typewriters here

    The Soviets did a reasonable job of putting covert steganographic keyloggers in US typewriters in the past:

    That's irony... or symmetry... or something.

    Types up "Secret Document" ... Then scans it to the office :).

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