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The Next New Media: Typewriters and Handwritten Letters

Who would have thought that typewriters and handwritten letters would ever be back in fashion? But back in 2013 it was reported that Russia was buying large quantities of typewriters. When this was further investigated the country denied that this was for security reasons.

Since the Snowden revelations there has been a further rush on typewriters, both by government officials and by a range of, mainly corporate, businesses. In general they are used for confidential information—rather than being sent electronically it is posted, couriered or hand delivered.

Those with reasonable handwriting have also gone back to this form of communication; American Presidents have been among the most prolific users of handwritten letters and notes—obviously restricted to the group of contacts that they trust. That is not to say, of course, that those letters and notes won’t pop up in the intriguing world of political and big business.

But certainly handwritten communications very significantly reduce the potential for snooping by others, such as the various national spy agents.

But even in these senior government and corporate circles this can only be used for communications that are classified as being of the highest level of confidentiality, as it is impractical to deploy typewriters and hand written communication at any larger scale within organisations.

At the same time, as we reported shortly after the Snowden revelations, billions of dollars have been spent on internal security audits, and on further security improvements, mainly with encryption technologies (cryptography). But not just technologies are scrutinised, internal security systems—or the lack of them—have also been audited.

Large international technology companies have also increased their levels of security, as, especially in the case of American technology companies, they have been scrutinised regarding their cooperation (willing or otherwise) with the American government in relation to data capturing by spy agencies. Cisco and IBM in particular have been hit hard by overseas buyers. Google, Facebook and Microsoft are among the companies that have been most vocal in expressing their opposition to unbridled spying by their government. They have publicly announced their security upgrades and have indicated that their levels of vulnerability to interference (or hacking) have improved significantly.

Europe, led by Germany, is looking at creating a security shield around their data. Many question the use of this but nevertheless the level of security awareness has increased significantly and large sums of money are currently spent on cryptography and other more in-house management-oriented measures—not just on e-security but also aimed at increasing internal awareness and vigilance on the issue. Most security breaches—as high as 80%—come from people within the organisation, most even with the appropriate authority.

However, in the greater global scheme of cybercrime and cyber spying, from now on it will be a cat and mouse game, with both parties spending billions of dollars on outmanoeuvring each other, step-by-step. Few wouldargue against the need for spy agencies to be able to ensure as far as possible that countries stay safe against terrorists and other criminal activities, but a more sensible approach would be to create better rules and regulations around transparency and oversight. Once they are in place a greater level of cooperation regarding security between governments, and between governments and businesses, can be achieved.

Not that it will ever be smooth sailing—far from it—but at this stage any improvement to a system that has damaged trust around the world is a positive.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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