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Will reverting to typewriters really counter espionage?

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German politicians are encouraging the use of old-fashioned typewriters. Patrick Sensburg, NSA inquiry head explained that they were considering using the ancient devices as an anti-spy measure – “and not electronic models either.”

However, not everyone in Germany’s political circle seems keen on the idea. Martina Renner, an opposition member of the parliamentary committee, tweeted: “Before I start using typewriters and burning notes after reading, I’d rather abolish the secret services.”

And SPD representative Christian Flisek believes that “this call for mechanical typewriters is making our work sound ridiculous. We live in the 21st century, where many people communicate predominantly by digital means. The idea that we can protect people from surveillance by dragging them back to the typewriter is absurd.”

It is arguable that regardless of how information is processed, there will always be security risks to consider. Rather than moving backwards by adopting older, less efficient tools to handle data, focus should instead be placed on using the best and most secure tools available, in a cautious and well-informed manner.

Barry Holder, information security and compliance manager at Outsourcery, explains: “When dealing with sensitive information, questions about security are always likely to arise, regardless of the tools being used to process that information. It’s arguable that no method is ever 100 per cent secure as there is always room for human error, technological malfunction and those that will seek to obtain information that isn’t rightfully theirs by any means necessary.

“Last year it was revealed that some international high-ranking officials were using electric typewriters. But these still stand the risk of being monitored with the use of keystroke loggers. Even with physical documents, there is still a risk of data being stolen, copied or misplaced. It’s not uncommon to hear about sensitive documents being left on public transport, so no method exists which is truly without risk.”

“When it comes to data security, while no storage method or solution is ever truly iron-clad, some are definitely a lot more secure than others, so it’s important to do your homework and continue to move with the times to take advantage of the latest developments in technology and security, rather than reverting back to the age of the typewriter,” Holder concludes.

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