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German Government Turns to Steampunk Tech To Evade NSA

And Putin’s been doing it for years…

Michael Cruickshank
German Government Turns to Steampunk Tech To Evade NSA© 2019 Flickr - Takeshi Hososhima

Germany is not very pleased with the United States at the moment. First there were the revelations that the NSA had hacked and tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal phone in an attempt to spy on her. Then in the last few weeks came information that agents working out of the US embassy in Berlin were actively involved in espionage against the German government, despite the fact that both of these countries are nominally allies.

As well as taking diplomatic moves against the US, the ever pragmatic Germans are reportedly taking measures to increase their operational security (opsec) in an environment where even their closest allies cannot be trusted. In order to avoid the vulnerabilities caused by information technology and digital systems, the Germans have decided on a rather basic solution: going back in time.

The Germans have decided on a rather basic solution to NSA hacking: going back in time

Reportedly, the German committee investigating the NSA hacking, will begin the use of typewriters for the creation of highly sensitive information briefs. In an interview on German TV, Patrick Sensburg, the committee's chairman stated that he takes operational security very seriously: “...in fact, we already have [a typewriter], and it's even a non-electronic typewriter."

Through the use of this sort of 19th century technology, they hope that they can put an end to the electronic surveillance and hacking by the NSA and/or other security agencies. As well as this the same committee will also be encouraged to reduce or eliminate their use of easy-to-hack smartphones, to further tighten their opsec.

Image: © 2014 Flickr - Quinn Dombrowski

While this seems like a novel strategy, it is in fact nothing new (no pun intended). Last year the Russian Government shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to facilitate the purchase of 20 electric typewriters for its workers to use. Indeed, such is Putin’s love of pre-digital communications, presumably learnt during his stint as a KGB agent that he reportedly demands that all major security and intelligence communiques that go through him, only be recorded in physical paper documents.

In the aftermath of the Snowdon leaks, and as more and more governments become aware of the extent of surveillance by agencies like the NSA, we can expect to see a wide array of groups begin to move their sensitive communications offline. Indeed, there is a probably a developing market for non-digital word processing devices, which could see new innovations in the way we interact with physical documents.

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