Feeds

Of spooks, security and Vista

Where's my tinfoil hat?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.