NSA helped with Windows 7 development - Uh oh!
2009 11 21
By Gregg Keizer | ComputerWorld.com
Privacy expert voices 'backdoor' concerns, security researchers dismiss idea.
The National Security Agency (NSA) worked with Microsoft on the development of Windows 7, an agency official acknowledged yesterday during testimony before Congress.
"Working in partnership with Microsoft and elements of the Department of Defense, NSA leveraged our unique expertise and operational knowledge of system threats and vulnerabilities to enhance Microsoft's operating system security guide without constraining the user to perform their everyday tasks, whether those tasks are being performed in the public or private sector," Richard Schaeffer, the NSA's information assurance director, told the Senate's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security yesterday as part of a prepared statement.
"All this was done in coordination with the product release, not months or years later during the product lifecycle," Schaeffer added. "This will improve the adoption of security advice, as it can be implemented during installation and then later managed through the emerging SCAP standards."
Security Content Automation Protocol, or SCAP, is a set of standards for automating chores such as managing vulnerabilities and measuring security compliance. The National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) oversees the SCAP standards.
This is not the first time that the NSA has partnered with Microsoft during Windows development. In 2007, the agency confirmed that it had a hand in Windows Vista as part of an initiative to ensure that the operating system was secure from attack and would work with other government software. Before that, the NSA provided guidance on how best to secure Windows XP and Windows 2000.
According to Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronics Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the NSA's involvement with operating system development goes back even farther. "This battle goes back to at least the crypto wars of the early '90s," said Rotenberg, who remembered testifying about the agency's role in private sector computer security standards in 1989.
But when the NSA puts hands on Windows, that raises a red flag for Rotenberg, who heads the Washington, D.C.-based public interest research center. "When NSA offers to help the private sector on computer security, the obvious concern is that it will also build in backdoors that enables tracking users and intercepting user communications," Rotenberg said in an e-mail. "And private sector firms are reluctant to oppose these 'suggestions' since the US government is also their biggest customer and opposition to the NSA could mean to loss of sales."
Rotenberg's worries stem from the NSA's reputation as the intelligence agency best known for its eavesdropping of electronic messaging, including cell phone calls and e-mail.
Andrew Storms, the director of security operations at nCircle Security, didn't put much credence in the idea that Microsoft would allow the NSA to build a hidden entrance to Windows 7. "Would it be surprising to most people that there was a backdoor? No, not with the political agenda of prior administrations," said Storms. "My gut, though, tells me that Microsoft, as a business, would not want to do that, at least not in a secretive way."
Roger Thompson, chief research officer at AVG Technologies, agreed. "I can't imagine NSA and Microsoft would do anything deliberate because the repercussions would be enormous if they got caught," he said in an interview via instant messaging.
"Having said that, I think we should understand that there is every likelihood that certain foreign governments are constantly looking for vulnerabilities that they can use for targeted attacks," Thompson continued. "So if they're poking at us, I think it's reasonable to assume that we're doing something similar. But I seriously doubt an official NSA-Microsoft alliance."
The NSA's Schaeffer added that his agency is also working on engaging other major software makers, including Apple, Sun and Red Hat, on security standards for their products.
"More and more, we find that protecting national security systems demands teaming with public and private institutions to raise the information assurance level of products and services more broadly," Schaeffer said.
Microsoft was not immediately available for comment on the NSA's participation in Windows 7's development.
Article from: ComputerWorld.com
China joins supercomputer elite
Glenn Beck: Cars.gov Allows Government to Takeover your Computer (Video)
Europe's fastest supercomputer unveiled in Germany
Barack Obama's 'Black Widow' : The Super Spy Computer
Russian hackers penetrate Pentagon computer system in cyber attack
Hackers claim there’s a black hole in the atom smashers’ computer network
Air Force Aims for 'Full Control' of 'Any and All' Computers
Computer hackers 'may be behind Hillary Clinton's shock new Hampshire victory'
Napolitano Says Americans Have a Responsibility to Spy On Each Other
Cable TV Workers Trained To Spy On Citizens
Internet ad tracking system will put a 'spy camera' in the homes of millions, warns founder of the web
CIA and Google Team Up Again For More Spying
NSA to spy on 38% of world telecom traffic
Is your firewall spying on you?
Microsoft, Google, PayPal all want to share your ID
Microsoft & Google don't Deny Participation in NSA Program
Microsoft Vista and the Death of Internet Freedom
Latest News from our Front Page
Israel’s Military Censors Demand ’Prior Review’ of NYT’s Gaza Reporting
2014 08 01
Following its reporting of the latest events in the Gaza Strip on Friday, including available details about an IDF soldier captured by Hamas soldiers early in the day, the New York Times was contacted by Israel’s military censor and told that future reporting related to the capture would need to be run through its office before publication.
The Times updated their ...
Wrong time, altered images: Moscow slams Kiev’s MH17 satellite data
2014 08 01
Satellite images Kiev published as ‘proof’ it didn’t deploy anti-aircraft batteries around the MH17 crash site carry altered time-stamps and are from days after the MH17 tragedy, the Russian Defense Ministry has revealed.
The images, which Kiev claims were taken by its satellites at the same time as those taken by Russian satellites, are neither Ukrainian nor authentic, according to Moscow’s ...
World’s First Man-Made Leaves Breathe Oxygen
2014 08 01
A graduate student in innovation design engineering at the UK’s Royal College of Art has created a synthetic leaf that mimics the functions of its real counterpart.
"I have the first photosynthetic material that is working and breathing as a leaf does," said Julian Melchiorri.
The synthetic leaf uses photosynthesis to produce oxygen, by absorbing light, water and carbon dioxide. The artificial ...
The £11 billion Government plan to put ’Smart meters’ in every British home
2014 08 01
The UK government plans to put smart meters into British homes, and the costs of this program will naturally be passed on to reluctant customers. Critics of the plan suggest that this would make homes and the national grid vulnerable to terrorists, but as it’s been confirmed that government agents are most often involved in terror plots, it’s not the ...
Race to be scrapped from Swedish legislation
2014 08 01
The Swedish government announced that it plans to remove all mentions of race from Swedish legislation, saying that race is a social construct which should not be encouraged in law.
"We know that different human races actually do not exist," Swedish Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag told Sveriges Television (SVT).
"We also know that the fundamental grounds of racism are ...
|More News » |