Microsoft To Encrypt Data Center Links; Says NSA Hacking Would Be Unconstitutional

from the and-now-what? dept

We were somewhat surprised to see Microsoft recently admit that in the wake of the revelation that the NSA had infiltrated the private data links between Yahoo and Google's data centers that it had not yet decided to encrypt its own such links. Google had very quickly moved to encrypt those links and Yahoo has recently done so as well (though it took a little while). Now Microsoft is saying that it's going to do the same thing.

While the revealed documents did not directly point to a similar infiltration of Microsoft, there's reason to believe it was also compromised. Other Snowden documents mentioned in the linked article above note that Microsoft is listed as having data accessible under the same program, referred to as MUSCULAR. Perhaps more interesting is Microsoft making it clear that it believes any such infiltration would be a serious legal violation:
When asked about the NSA documents mentioning surveillance of Microsoft services, Smith issued a sharply worded statement: “These allegations are very disturbing. If they are true these actions amount to hacking and seizure of private data and in our view are a breach of the protection guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”
Of course, just because something is a Constitutional violation doesn't necessarily mean that there's much of a legal remedy. Any lawsuit would immediately lead to claims of sovereign immunity and national security to try to kill off any such lawsuit. It's the same thing the feds have done every time they've been challenged on this stuff. The only real way to deal with this is to make sure that the companies actually protect user data in a manner that makes it nearly impossible for the government to break in as it has in the past.

Filed Under: brad smith, datacenters, encryption, infiltration, nsa, nsa surveillance
Companies: microsoft

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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 28 Nov 2013 @ 10:28am

    Re: Backdoor in Windows ?

    we know that the NSA 'helped' Microsoft build certain parts of their code

    Yes, but only the cryptographic parts. You can easily avoid this by using quality crypto software that doesn't make use of the MS crypto api.

    Now could there be a backdoor built into every single edition of Windows

    There could, of course. It's even widely believed in the industry that there is (mostly because of the NSA_KEY business). Nobody knows for sure, though, and in my work (tangentially related to this stuff) I have seen a number of signs that either there is no backdoor or it is very difficult to use.

    If so, then how much will encryption help, if the NSA has a direct 'open line' into every single Windows PC on the planet ?

    It helps a lot. For someone to use a backdoor, they have to target you, specifically. They have to know your IP address, for instance. Bulk collections of communications would be much more difficult if everything was encrypted even if every machine also had a back door installed.

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