Russian security agency to buy typewriters to avoid surveillance

by Anna Arutunyan 

Russia’s Federal Protection Service (FSO), the Kremlin agency that protects state officials like the president and the prime minister, has ordered 20 typewriters in an apparent bid to avoid leaks and surveillance like those revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

An order for 20 typewriters and 600 ink cartridges costing up to 486,500 rubles was placed by the agency earlier this month, according to documents published on the official site for government tenders.

According to sources in the agency, security agents want to use typewriters instead of computers to avoid leaks and electronic surveillance.

“After the scandals over WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden’s revelations [about surveillance], reports of taps on [Prime Minister] Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to London for the G20 summit, it was decided that the use of paper documents needed to be expanded,” the Izvestia daily quoted an unnamed FSO source as saying.

Typewriters are still used in Russia’s power structures, like the Defense Ministry, the Emergencies Ministry, and the security services, the source said, and they’re used predominantly for top secret messages addressed to the president or the defense minister.

Experts say that while electronic carriers like computers are more vulnerable to surveillance, it’s the human factor that’s behind most leaks.

“Often an official who has legitimate access to information will resign and take certain documents with him,” Oleg Glebov, head of Andek, a company specializing in information security, was quoted by Izvestia as saying. “After that, he can accidentally ‘lose’ the carrier or hand [the documents] over to someone who is interested.”



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