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Insiders help Windows code leak to warez sites, claims ‘finder’

Just a bit of fun, and nobody got hurt, right?

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Microsoft's network security problems consist largely of two things - people, and the fact that there's demand for its software. Free, preferably. Practically all companies have the first problem, but Microsoft's problems with warez sites and piracy loom rather larger than, say, Sun's, IBM's or Oracle's.

So go figure. People on the outside want the software, people on the inside are weak, and what happens? As The Register pointed out yesterday, most hacking (the hacking you hear about, anyway) is pretty simplistic stuff that uses off-the-shelf tools aided by a little human frailty on the inside; send an executable to enough people and someone, sooner or later, is going to run it.

But what if it's more than just a bit of human frailty? What if your staff are at least passively co-operating with the 'plumbers'? According to one (presumably ex-) plumber who has contacted The Register, that's precisely what happens.

"Back in about '96," he says, "when I was running a very, very large warez site affiliated with several large pirate groups, I had access to the daily build directories at Microsoft for all their products directly from the Internet via FTP. A lot of their internal security was already circumvented by people on the inside either giving access to people on the outside, or setting up access methods (firewall bridges etc) for them to get in."

If like Microsoft you think of warez/piracy as major-league criminality then co-operation of this sort is inconceivable. But if you look at it from the more relaxed perspective of coders who want to help out their buddies and maybe look big to them, and anyway nobody gets hurt, it's all too plausible. Staff wouldn't willingly facilitate access for people who intended to sabotage or spy, but just sharing things is different, right?

"None of it at the time was anything more than a bit of the old hacker 'fun,'" continues our warezista. "But that's not to say nowadays that some of these guys haven't been paid off to get access."

Earlier, he says, "I was an FTP site 'finder' back in 93/94 for a couple of large pirate groups," and he had access to a connection with plenty bandwidth. "I used to update my copy of Windows at least once a week from their build directories so I could see what was new... I remember projects like Nashville and Detroit which appeared just after Win95 was released and included a large number of the features that appeared much later in Windows 98/IE5, such as the Active Desktop, Web Folders/Explorer."

Is he making it up? If so, how do Whistler aplphas escape into the wild, and how come warez sites are generally so well-stocked?

It's worth noting that with the release of the Whistler beta Microsoft is tightening up on its security, requiring Passport validation for downloads, for example. So clearly the company is worried about code escapes. ®

Related story:
How you hack into Microsoft: a step by step guide

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