Feeds

Of spooks, security and Vista

Where's my tinfoil hat?

Boost IT visibility and business value

Comment News that emerged early January that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been at Microsoft looking at the security of Vista should hardly come as a surprise.

With a new operating system that will find its way onto millions of desktops worldwide, the thoughts that some of the smartest brains in the security game have been trying to break the OS should give us all a degree of comfort - or does it?

For many, Microsoft (and especially Bill Gates), is the devil incarnate that should never be trusted. The thought it is getting friendly with the NSA gives the Area 51 mob yet more fuel for their incandescent fire.

One of the biggest issues the conspiracy theorists have is that the NSA has engineered a back door into Vista that will enable it to penetrate an organisation's security and see what is going on.

Well, this supposes a number of things. First, that there is a great conspiracy between Microsoft and the NSA to allow access to the code base and for the back door to be engineered into the system. Some would suggest this would be put in place whether Microsoft agreed or not, no doubt with creepy people wandering the halls of Redmond at night breaking into server rooms.

Second, it supposes that the NSA has the resources to engineer back doors and silence any leaks from those in the know. Many hundreds of people have been working on Vista and techies, being techies, can't keep anything hush hush, so I am sure if this was the case we would have heard.

Unless, of course, Lake Washington has been filling up with software engineers chucked off the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and we just haven't noticed.

The more interesting point is to what level do manufacturers of hardware and software that use encryption work with the authorities? Is there a moral responsibility on companies to submit their products to relevant agencies or at least give them the appropriate keys? I know of vendors in the UK that have been visited by gentlemen from Cheltenham who take a very serious view on what they should be given. Imagine if there was a nascent terrorist plot or paedophile ring that could not be smashed as they were using a hokie cokie encryption algorithm that no one could break.

The NSA cites the fact its work is primarily signals intelligence (SigInt in spook speak), that is eavesdropping on communications between parties. The secondary part of its work is information assurance, protecting software assets from Trojans and other nasties.

Surely the fact the NSA is now publicly admitting working with Microsoft should give us all a bit more confidence in the security of the OS. Or should I be getting my tin foil hat back out of the cupboard?

Copyright © 2007, IT-Analysis.com

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.