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No backdoor for Vista - MS

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Microsoft developers have stepped forward to dismiss suggestions that the next versions of Windows might feature backdoor features to allow police access to encrypted files which might other be impossible to access.

A BBC report last month suggested the Home Office was in talks with Microsoft over ways to overcome any obstacles Windows Vista's wider use of encryption might pose to criminal investigations. Vista is due to feature hardware-based encryption, called BitLocker Drive Encryption, which acts as a repository to protect sensitive data in the event of a PC being either lost or stolen.

Speaking before a Commons home affairs select committee hearing, Professor Ross Anderson reportedly urged the government "to look at establishing 'back door' ways of getting around encryptions". Pro-active stuff but, as previously reported, a careful review of the rest of Anderson's comments reveal he has talking about the challenge posed to police forensic investigations by hard disk encryption. Not too much should be read into one particular phrase.

A Microsoft spokeswoman told The Register: "Windows Vista is engineered to be the most secure version of Windows yet. It is our goal to ensure enterprise users have full control over information on their PCs Microsoft has not and will not put 'backdoors' into Windows, its BitLocker feature, or any other Microsoft Products."

Just to make assurance twice sure, a Microsoft developer has waded into the debate. The idea that Microsoft is working with governments to create a back door into BitLocker-encrypted data would only happen "over my dead body", Niels Ferguson writes on the Microsoft System Integrity Team Blog titled Back-door nonsense.

"In the unlikely situation that we are forced to by {include a back door] law we'll either announce it publicly or withdraw the entire feature. Back doors are simply not acceptable. Besides, they wouldn't find anybody on this team willing to implement and test the back door," he added.

Microsoft is talking to various governments about Vista, but only in the context of becoming end users of the technology. It is also helping law enforcement organisations in preparing for the introduction of the technology. ®

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