Hot IT Tool: The Typewriter
By Eileen Feretic
Recent reports from the BBC and other sources say the Russian government is purchasing typewriters. That's right, typewriters.
Presumably, the action is in response to recent leaks of confidential information by WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden—actions that exposed an untold number of classified U.S. government documents and started a worldwide frenzy.
The BBC article stated that "The FSO [Federal Protection Service] has not commented on why it needs the old-fashioned devices. But an agency source told Russia's Izvestiya newspaper the aim was to prevent leaks from computer hardware."
Is this the start of a trend? Will other governments start using typewriters and paper to protect their secrets? And what about corporations? Will they start safeguarding their intellectual property by using typewriters instead of computers? Will individuals start saving their secret thoughts in diaries and other paper-based media instead of sharing all their thoughts with the world on Facebook?
It seems ridiculous, doesn't it? To me, it sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit—or fodder for John Stewart or Stephen Colbert. But it does raise a critical question: Is any information completely safe anymore?
Unfortunately, the answer is "no."
Despite all the privacy and security safeguards available—both hardware- and software-based—there's one element we can't control: people.
We can—and should—limit individuals' access to confidential information on a need-to-know basis. We can—and should—do comprehensive background checks before giving people access to critical data. That will stop many of the leaks and thefts of information, but it won't stop them all.
Regardless of whether their motive is financial gain, revenge, an act of conscience or a desire for fame as a hacker, some people will always attempt to access information they shouldn't have. That's a given.
The goal should be to keep those intrusions to an absolute minimum by using all the security technology available and educating people about the potentially disastrous consequences of data leaks—and what they can do to prevent them.
Educated, attentive employees can serve as an information army protecting critical information. They are the best line of defense … not typewriters.
Eileen Feretic is the Editor in Chief of Baseline. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at baselinemag or eferetic.