In The Lives of Others, a movie about the radicalization of a playwright living under Communist rule in East Germany, a key plot point revolves around identifying what type of typewriter was used to write an article by an anonymous critic of the government. Every typewriter in East Germany is registered, so an editor smuggles in a foreign one that prints in red ink. The authorities become obsessed with hunting for the red ink typewriter; if they can find the typewriter, they will find their man.
Surprisingly, this situation isn’t all that different from an incident that was in the news last week. A once secret code, invisible to the naked eye, may have been one of the markers used to identify and eventually arrest NSA leaker Reality Winner. Security researchers have theorized that Winner’s downfall could have been a small set of dots in the corner of the Top Secret analysis she printed and mailed to online news outlet The Intercept.