Your Community

Russia orders typewriters to prevent data leaks

Categories: World

460-olivetti-typewriter-7765442.jpg
Russia's Federal Guard Service has ordered 20 new electric typewriters to avoid electronic data leaks. Shown above is an Olivetti manual typewriter, which was sold at an auction for $254,500 US in New York in 2009. (Christie's/Associated Press)

After a flurry of headlines involving international espionage and intelligence leaks, Russia is taking an old-fashioned approach to the new face of security: the humble typewriter.

The Telegraph reports that the Federal Guard Service (FSO) has placed an order for 20 German-made electric typewriters. The FSO is an agency tasked with Russian communications and President Vladimir Putin's safety.

The FSO declined to comment to The Telegraph on the reason behind the order, but told Russia's Izvestiya paper it was concerned with protecting their national secrets from leaking.

"After scandals with the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the exposes by Edward Snowden, reports about Dmitry Medvedev being bugged during his visit to the G20 London summit (in 2009), it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents," the source told Izvestiya.

The order is priced by the FSO at 486,540 roubles, or $15,419.43 CDN. That works out to about $770.97 CDN for each typewriter.

The security benefits of eschewing a regular computer are at least two-fold: obviously, printing physical documents alone ensures that data isn't stored on a computer drive, preventing anyone from making a copy, hacking into servers full of confidential data, or leaking said data to the press.

Furthermore, the Guardian reports that each typewriter the has a unique writing signature, allowing a savvy user to identify the singular machine each document was printed on.

"Typewriters are still used to type on paper with an adhesive layer so that the glue doesn't get too hot," Izvestiya's source said, according to the Guardian. "What's more, a whole series of documents are not created on electronic devices. That practice exists in the defence ministry, the emergencies ministry and the special services."

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said today he would submit a request for asylum to Russia, where he plans to stay until he can travel to Latin American countries to weigh asylum offers.


While the Snowden affair is the most recent security concern to receive international attention, Agence France Presse reports that the FSO had planned this order more than a year ago.

While it's probably safe to say the typewriter's best days are behind it - replaced by the growth of personal computers throughout the 1980s - the old-fashioned click-clack of both mechanical and electric models have continued to enjoy popularity.

And iPad typewriter accessory connects to your tablet and pounds the touchscreen keyboard. And website USB Typewriter physically converts typewriters sent in by customers into PC-compatible accessories by making it USB-ready.

Do you own a typewriter? Do you think it's a viable way to keep your documents private - whether they are national secrets or personal correspondence?


Tags: POV, World

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.