Neobytes :) Want to avoid the NSA? Be like Germany and use a typewriter

NeoBytes :) is an occasional feature that takes a step back from the big headlines, to take a look at what else is happening in the vast, scary expanse of the tech world - often with a cynical eye, always with a dose of humour.

It's no secret that the NSA has been in the news a lot lately, and none of it has been for nice things like helping little old ladies cross the street. With allegations that the United States has been spying on everyone from its own citizens to leaders of foreign countries, distrust of the secret organization has been on the rise, and people are looking for solutions to stay out of the agency's crosshairs.

Germany may be going just a little too far with their paranoia though. The Guardian reports that, according to an interview with Morgenmagazin TV, the country is looking into scrapping all electronic communication for their sensitive information and will instead use typewriters. When pressed about this, German politician Patrick Sensburg said, "As a matter of fact, we have -- and not electronic models either." Still not convinced this wasn't a hoax, the interviewer asked for confirmation to which Sensburg responded, "Yes, no joke."

Strangely enough, Germany is not the first country to consider this switch. Last year, the Russian government was contemplating a switch back to typewriters, but for a different reason: The type pattern for each machine is unique, letting the government know which typewriter and possibly which typist was responsible for a leak. Indeed, they planned on spending £10,000 on the devices.

Next up: Replacing cell phones with a pair of cans and a string.

Source: Guardian | Typewriter image courtesy of Shutterstock

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

TechSpot: Silverstone Raven 5 (RV05) ATX Case Review

Next Story

Xperia Z3 has been spotted passing through the FCC

48 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Create encryption cipher, type out my message, send it to a friend who has the key to decrypt. Should work as long as no one cracks the encryption.... Oh wait, this sounds like very slow e-mail.....

If they really believe that mechanical typewriters are secure they have another problem. Each key on a typewriter makes a different sound as it hits the paper, so with a microphone in the next room and an oscilloscope you can soon work out what is being typed. This method was used by intelligence agencies back in the pre-electric days, so no doubt there are still around who can bring it back.

The ink ribbon is the biggest security risk. As you type, the ribbon rotates (much like a cassette tape moves if you've never seen a typewriter). Unwind the ribbon and you can just read everything typed.

cypherboy said,
If they really believe that mechanical typewriters are secure they have another problem. Each key on a typewriter makes a different sound as it hits the paper, so with a microphone in the next room and an oscilloscope you can soon work out what is being typed. This method was used by intelligence agencies back in the pre-electric days, so no doubt there are still around who can bring it back.

Wow, the vulnerability seems stupid. Why don't just play noise so the spy can't make out what you're typing.

Seems rather extreme when you can easily setup a computer network with zero internet access while also controlling what devices are authorized onto the network.

Russia actually did this first, they've been using typewriters for years to avoid American spying.

Of course, American media won't mention that lest it paint Russia in a positive light.

Really though. Remember one guy destroyed his life to let the public know what was up. The editor of this article thinks its appropriate to poke fun on regressing their tech in the name of national security.

Bigkaye said,
Really though. Remember one guy destroyed his life to let the public know what was up. The editor of this article thinks its appropriate to poke fun on regressing their tech in the name of national security.

I'm probably more pro-privacy than most people, but limiting communications to pieces of paper typed on old typewriters? C'mon, that's not adding any security at all and in many ways is making security WEAKER by having those pieces of paper around that have to be secured. It's easier to pick a lock than to break many forms of encryption.

Bear in mind that Germans were recently s*wed by americans so it's not surprising that they are getting these typewriters. Seems like their patience for being spied by "partner" has reached the top limit.

Spying tech researchers would cry foul.

They, the governments and agencies, have thrown away decades of advancement in technology. They have made us (their industry) go back to the stone ages.

Well, then NSA will change probably to the old fashion spying...
There's always a solution. And old spyung methods are already " certified" :D

Watch the ribbon, guys...

ALL regular mail addresses are scanned, but snooping on the contents requires specific targeting. This kind of old fashioned actual work are what governments and law enforcement prefer not to do anymore, they would like to continue throwing out a big net and collecting the easy stuff.

eiffel_g said,
Well, then NSA will change probably to the old fashion spying...
There's always a solution. And old spyung methods are already " certified" :D

Watch the ribbon, guys...

The NSA probably has ways of spying on this form of communication too. Like, they can probably hack into something and measure the noise levels of individual keys and track what they are typing by the minute difference in key strokes or the distortion of ribbon striking positions of each key. Some crazy stuff like that. ;)

When will people get thru their head that the NSA doesn't care about regular everyday people?

Hell, they don't even care about famous people.

You are not important. The sooner people realize that, the better.

The German government isn't "regular people" and it's already been alleged that the NSA had a massive surveillance program going on with the German government (we covered it).

riahc3 said,
When will people get thru their head that the NSA doesn't care about regular everyday people?

Hell, they don't even care about famous people.

You are not important. The sooner people realize that, the better.

That's not the point. The point is that your daily communications, be they voice or email, or pictures, or whatever are being intercepted and stored without your consent or knowledge. A level of trust that you expect your communication to go only to the intended recipient is broken.

It's just creepy. Invasion of privacy. And I understand why so many people are so angry about it.

Steven P. said,
The German government isn't "regular people" and it's already been alleged that the NSA had a massive surveillance program going on with the German government (we covered it).

Alleged.

And a government spying on another government? Who would have thought? We didn't have that in the 1900....no, not at all.

riahc3 said,

And a government spying on another government? Who would have thought? We didn't have that in the 1900....no, not at all.

That doesn't make it right, especially when the countries involved are NATO allies :|

riahc3 said,
When will people get thru their head that the NSA doesn't care about regular everyday people?

Hell, they don't even care about famous people.

You are not important. The sooner people realize that, the better.


If they don't care about me, why do they care about everything I do?

riahc3 said,
When will people get thru their head that the NSA doesn't care about regular everyday people?

Hell, they don't even care about famous people.

You are not important. The sooner people realize that, the better.

Wow you really are brainwashed. Who else are they watching except regular people? You think they are trying to find terorrists? They dont exist, and all these suicide and teorrist acts are being done by US themselves to give them excuses to spy on everyone, pretending that they care.

Exactly, it's absolutely stunning how people can't understand that this DOES affect them and everyone else. Privacy is a crucial element in maintaining your freedom. I'm past the point of allowing stupid comments like this to slide.

Steven P. said,

That doesn't make it right, especially when the countries involved are NATO allies :|

While I agree its not right, the NSA is suppose to be spying on anyone and everyone. Its there job as spys. Granted, they are our allies. But my guess is the Germans have been spying on some of their allies before as well. Probably even America. And their spy agency probably should be even though its not right.

Chicane-UK said,

That's not the point. The point is that your daily communications, be they voice or email, or pictures, or whatever are being intercepted and stored without your consent or knowledge. A level of trust that you expect your communication to go only to the intended recipient is broken.

It's just creepy. Invasion of privacy. And I understand why so many people are so angry about it.


Then what is the point? What is the point of the NSA and your daily communications which deals with talking about work related stuff, calling your mother, nasty talking with your girlfriend, etc., by voice or email, or pictures of you or your girlfriend naked being intercepted and stored without your consent or knowledge?

I think Neowin should know by now what the internet is: Nothing more than routers and PCs which means we are ALL connected to the same WAN (in its most simplied sense, of course). At the end of the day even though you are sending it to one person, it is a public medium. Hell, its like when you are on the street and should "Damn you got a mean ass" to girl; Her friends and people around you will look at you because even though the comment wasn't directed at you, they hear it.

Its not creepy because I (and the rest of you) have a lot more important things to worry about than some agency storing all my information that I send over the internet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_cache

Why are we bitching about the NSA when web caches can do the same thing?

People need to worry about more important things in their life. Either that or do something more productive instead of being bored "worrying" about the NSA that stores your information (allegedly, mind you)

Cøi said,

What makes you think they do?


Exactly. They collect every single piece of data from everywhere and anything. They are not after you.

What you think they do:
SELECT * FROM PEOPLE WHERE NAME="John"

What they actually do:
SELECT * FROM PEOPLE

tomcoleman said,
unless your a terrorist who cares??

it's a chicken and egg situation

Innocent until proven guilty right........so don't spy on me unless you have reason to believe I'm guilty. However, you need access to my communications to find that out.

The NSA is targeting people who make use of VPN and proxy software, including Tor and Tails, labeling them as "extremists". They also spied on hundreds of Muslim Americans for merely being associated with a Muslim charity. The fact of whether or not they got a warrant for this surveillance is meaningless when you consider that the FISA court has rejected less than 1% of all surveillance requests.

We all have something to hide. It's a matter of who we're hiding these things from. Are you religious? Do you support gay rights? Where do you stand on immigration? What political affiliation are you? Do you support any charities? These are all issues that will put you on one side of the fence or the other, and is enough reason for some a-hole working for the government to target you.

https://www.schneier.com/blog/...014/07/nsa_targets_pri.html
https://www.schneier.com/blog/...014/07/nsa_spied_on_pr.html
http://www.motherjones.com/moj...ying-opinion-reject-request

I worry most about spying tech being used by a party in power to dig for dirt on its opposition, or just for harassment in general. We have seen time and time again that when people in power have access to this kind of thing, they will use it.

tomcoleman said,
unless your a terrorist who cares??

There are plenty of legal things I do that is none of anyone else business.

tomcoleman said,
unless your a terrorist who cares??

NSA is the american version of the SS. So, no matter if you are good citizen that pays all your taxes or not, they have enough power to decide for your life.

tomcoleman said,
unless your a terrorist who cares??

This thought pattern you stated is extremely flawed. Many people say similar things such as "I'm not doing anything wrong, so I don't need to worry." The problem with that line of thought is the fact that you don't make the laws, nor do you enforce them. You do not get to decide what is right and wrong.

With enough of your life recorded, if anyone holding onto that information wants to "sound bite" your life, I am sure that with enough creative editing anyone can be made to look like a criminal when in front of a judge. Yes, I have watched it happen to people in court cases and in the media constantly. If someone wants to spin your life and make you out to be a criminal, there is enough of a digital record to do so.

There are so many senseless laws on the books these days, I doubt anyone can truly go through a day or perhaps a week without your breaking some unknown law somewhere.

What might be legal today, may not be tomorrow just because some senator or president said so. There are numerous examples throughout history where a government has outlawed something, and then goes after people in retrospect for something that was not a crime before hand.

Whether or not you are interested in the government, the government is interested in you. This is why everything is recorded and archived.

Look at how Germany acted in pre-WWII, or the communist party in Russia. You don't need to go too far to find this happen in history. If a group of people do not like you, you are accused, tried, convicted, and sent somewhere (incarceration or incineration) convenient for that group in power.