Russia cracks down on internet, returns to typewriters

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:19 pm IST

Published - July 12, 2013 07:21 pm IST - MOSCOW

Russia is drawing its lessons from Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the United States’ massive electronic spying programmes, with security services switching to old-fashioned typewriters to prevent leaks and the government seeking to tighten control over the Internet.

The Federal Guards Service FSO, in charge of protecting Russia’s top leadership, has placed an order for 20 electric typewriters that would be used instead of computers to prepare top-secret documents, a Russian daily reported quoting a FSO source.

“Following scandals with the publication of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the revelations by Edward Snowden [and] reports about [then President] Dmitry Medvedev being snooped upon during his visit to the G20 summit in London, decision has been taken to expand the practice of creating paper documents,” the FSO official told the Izvestia daily.

Some Russian government agencies, including the Ministry of Defence, the Emergency Situations Ministry and secret services, have never stopped using typewriters for security purposes, the paper said.

Experts, however, said the ink-and-paper method did not give foolproof guarantee against leaks.

“Paper documents can be stolen or photographed, they are easier to get access to and can just be memorised; they are harder to store and could go up in smoke in case of a fire,” said Oleg Glebov of the Andek information security company.

In far more serious fallout of Mr Snowden’s exposures, Russian authorities are planning to impose restrictions on the Internet.

The upper house of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council, will shortly set up an inter-agency commission to look into the facts of “U.S. intelligence agencies gaining access to people’s personal data through internet providers.” Some lawmakers have called for a ban on storing Russian government and private data on foreign servers.

Such demands are in line with Russia’s proposals for bringing the Internet under the control of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and for creating “national internet segments.” The proposals, made at a U.N. conference on telecommunications in Dubai last December, were backed by China but opposed by most other countries, including India.

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