Let’s start with something simpler – a computer protected by a password and antivirus software. For a more advanced enthusiast of breaking security measures hacking into someone’s account is like a piece of cake, especially with the help of a keylogger – software for capturing text written with a keyboard. Passwords, notes, e-mails – each word is discreetly intercepted and conveniently sent to you. But this isn’t a novelty, as similar things were done even before the Digital era.
HOW RUSSIANS LISTENED IN ON THE US USING AMERICAN EQUIPMENTThe year 1976, middle of the Cold War when information was the most dangerous weapon. The embassy in Moscow and consulate in Leningrad are American enclaves surrounded by Soviet spies. But behind the doors of the embassy, there’s a river of secret documents and confidential notes flowing to the US concerning their Eastern enemy. The Soviets were very interested in the content of the correspondence and, knowing that the best place to hide something is in plain sight, they created the first keylogger and hid it in an American IBM Selectric typewriter.
This typewriter used a rather uncommon mechanism as its typing element, so-called typeball, rotated and pivoted to the correct position before striking using a magnetic field. The ball rolled over a sheet of paper and typed the chosen letter. Voilà! The KGB placed a metal wire in the ball that measured the magnetic field of eight consecutive signs and sent this information using a radio transmitter to the nearby Soviet receiver station.
In the event of a search for listening devices in the American embassy, the Soviet keylogger could be remotely turned off and on whenever needed. For the next eight years Americans had no idea that everything that their agents typed was read by their enemies! The NSA was informed about the double function of their IBM typewriters as late as in the year 1984.