How Soviets used IBM Selectric keyloggers to spy on US diplomats

  • 14 October 2015
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Highly sophisticated bugs went undetected for 8 years during the Cold War.

by Dan Goodin (US) - Oct 13, 2015
A National Security Agency memo that recently resurfaced a few years after it was first published contains a detailed analysis of what very possibly was the world's first keylogger—a 1970s bug that Soviet spies implanted in US diplomats' IBM Selectric typewriters to monitor classified letters and memos.
The electromechanical implants were nothing short of an engineering marvel. The highly miniaturized series of circuits were stuffed into a metal bar that ran the length of the typewriter, making them invisible to the naked eye. The implant, which could only be seen using X-ray equipment, recorded the precise location of the little ball Selectric typewriters used to imprint a character on paper. With the exception of spaces, tabs, hyphens, and backspaces, the tiny devices had the ability to record every key press and transmit it back to Soviet spies in real time.
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