Russia Turns To Typewriters To Protect Against Cyber Espionage

Russia has opted to purchase a slew of old-school typewriters in order to protect state secrets, 

reports Pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia.Although notable in the wake of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden revelations about the NSA and cyber spying, an official told Agence France Presse, “This purchase has been planned for more than a year now.”

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 circa 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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