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Russia Goes Retro To Keep Kremlin Secrets

NPR icon by Scott Neuman
John MacDougall

The Russian agency charged with safeguarding Kremlin communications has opted for a low-tech solution to secure top-secret messages in the wake of the NSA spy scandal: typewriters.

Izvestia reports that the Federal Guard Agency, known by the acronym FSO, has placed an order for $15,000 worth of electric typewriters.

Izvestia quotes an unnamed source in Russia:

"After scandals with the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the exposes by Edward Snowden, reports about [Russian Prime Minister] Dmitry Medvedev being listened in on during his visit to the G20 summit in London, it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents."

The source said typewriters were already being used in Russia's defense and emergency ministries and that they also used to prepare select secret reports for President Vladimir Putin.

The retro approach to security has two distinct advantages — not only will it keep sensitive communications outside vulnerable computer networks, but since each typewriter has subtle and identifiable differences in typeface, it will make it easier to track down potential leakers.

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