Russians Opt For Typewriters To Combat Leak Threat

old sypewriter phone vintage retro © BrAt82 Shutterstock

No danger of a Snowden style leak if it’s all on paper, the Kremlin hopes

The Russians have opted for an old school approach to communications in order to avoid the type of damaging leaks that has recently plagued the American NSA spy agency.

According to reports, the Kremlin’s Federal Guard Service (FSO), which is tasked with protecting high-ranking state officials, is opting for paper-based communications after an order was placed for 20 Triumph Adler TWAIN 180 typewriters, at the cost of 486,540 Russian Rubles (£9,832).

typewriter retro letter vintage © Anton Balazh Shutterstock

Paper Trail

According to a report in the Izvestiya newspaper, the Russian decision to revert to paper for printing confidential documents comes in the wake of the US surveillance scandal revealed by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, coupled with the Wikileaks fiasco, and the reported bugging of then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to the G20 London summit back in 2009.

So in an effort to stamp out any possible leaks in future associated with these modern forms of electronic communications, the decision has been made to expand the use typewriters, as each typewriter creates a unique pattern or signature that allows the source to be traced. And of course typewriters are not at risk from cyber attacks or hacks.

The FSO is a powerful agency within the Russian hierarchy. It is thought to have approximately 20,000 to 30,000 personnel and controls the “black box” that would be used in the event of global nuclear war. It also operates a secure communications system for senior government officials.

According to the Izvestiya newspaper report, Russia’s security services, the Defense Ministry, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations all remain wary of using electronic documents and use still typewriters for their confidential documents.

Whilst experts regard paper as a relatively secure medium in this digital age, it is not foolproof as it is still vulnerable to fire for example and physical removal or theft.

“From the point of view of ensuring security, any form of electronic communication is vulnerable,” Nikolai Kovalev, an MP and former head of the Federal Security Service, told Izvestiya newspaper.

“Any information can be taken from computers,” he is quoted as saying. “Of course there exist means of protection, but there is no 100% guarantee that they will work. So from the point of view of keeping secrets, the most primitive method is preferred: a human hand with a pen or a typewriter.”

NSA Spying

The Russian love of paper comes amid a storm of controversy in the West after Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked thousands of classified US intelligence documents. Snowden is currently believed to be at Moscow airport as he seeks political asylum, to escape the wrath of US authorities.

WikiLeaks meanwhile hit headlines in 2010 after it released hundreds of thousands of embarrassing US state department diplomatic cables.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is believed to still be living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, as he seeks asylum in Ecuador.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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