Russian agency buys typewriters to avoid leaks and cyber-spying

Graham Cluley

Russia’s Federal Protection Service (FSO) has put in an order for 20 typewriters and 600 ink cartridges, according to newspaper reports from the country.

The FSO, which provides protection for high-ranking officials including Russian President Vladimir Putin, is said to have placed the order amid rising concerns about the USA’s electronic surveillance program, allegations that politicians were bugged during the 2009 G20 summit in London, and after a hoax email was apparently sent by the government’s press service announcing the firing of railway boss Vladimir Yakunin.

The total cost for the typewriters is expected to reach up to 486,500 rubles (about $15,000). The high expense might be explained by the fact that the devices in questions are specifically designed to print classified documents, with each machine having a unique font that can be used to trace any leaked printouts back to their source.

Photo of typewriter: Flickr/mpclemens
Photo of typewriter: Flickr/ mpclemens

Ahh. Those were the days.

When men were men, women were women, and rather than a backspace key you had to reach for a bottle of Tippex. How I long to hear the warning DING! as I approach my right margin.

At least you knew where you stood then, and didn’t have to worry about Trojan horses and Word document macro viruses. Cut-and-paste was a lot more of a faff however.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

4 Replies to “Russian agency buys typewriters to avoid leaks and cyber-spying”

  1. Just a switch in tactics…
    Chuck I. Aspy just gets a job as a cleaner in the buildings of the affected areas,and as he cleans and empties the garbage cans he palms the used typewriter ribbons.

    I shred my typewriter ribbons and then burn the shreds.

  2. and all you need to do is put iPhone by side of typewriter to pick up vibrations and transcribe the typed document….

    Decoding Vibrations From Nearby Keyboards Using Mobile Phone Accelerometers
    http://www.cc.gatech.edu/~traynor/papers/traynor-ccs11.pdf

    given that there's more pounding on these than a PC keyboard, it'll probably be very easy.

  3. Isn't it pretty much a knee-jerk reaction?It's possible to spy on printed documents as well.Just because planes can be hijacked doesn't mean that people must stop flying them.

  4. Lots of stuff you didn't have to worry about, yes. But… project Gunman.

    http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/_files/cryptologic_histories/Learning_from_the_Enemy.pdf

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