Business, Economics and Jobs

Russia turns to typewriters to protect against cyberespionage

Russia has purchased a slew of old-school typewriters in order to protect state secrets, reports pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia.

While it's notable in the wake of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA and cyberspying, an official told Agence France-Presse that the move isn't in response to those revelations. "This purchase has been planned for more than a year now,” he said.

The old school spy purchase is ironic, though, considering the Kremlin must know that typewriters can be compromised too. In fact, they pioneered such a practice.

From a 1987 article in The New York Times:

In the mid-1970's, American intelligence officials suspected that the typewriters in the embassy were being bugged.

A 1979 inspection trip yielded nothing, perhaps because the Russians learned in advance about the trip through memos typed on the compromised machines. In 1984, the experts returned, armed with a letter signed by President Reagan that ordered embassy personnel not to initiate any communications with Washington about a pending swap of equipment.

Hours after the team arrived in Moscow, according to Administration officials, a cable directly violating the order was sent from the embassy. But X-rays revealed that the typewriters had indeed been compromised.

Oddly enough, bugged typewriters used a form of bugging called "keystroke logging," which is exactly the same terminology used for a similar "listening" computer software hackers and spies use to read a user's traffic.

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