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Microsoft has once again denied rumours that it built a backdoor into Windows 7.

Long standing conspiracy theories that Redmond outfits Windows with a covert entry point for law enforcement resurfaced after a senior National Security Agency (NSA) official told Congress it had worked with Redmond on the operating system.

Richard Schaeffer, the NSA's information assurance director, told a Senate homeland security sub-committee on Tuesday that the agency had worked with developers on Windows 7's operating system security guide. He added that the NSA has worked with Microsoft as well as Apple, Sun, and RedHat in the past in developing "secure baselines for their products".

Conspiracy theorists saw any involvement by the NSA in developing the OS as evidence that it made modifications to allow its agents covert access.

Microsoft categorically denied this on Thursday. 'Microsoft has not and will not put 'backdoors' into Windows 7," a spokeswoman told Computerworld. "The work being discussed here is purely in conjunction with our Security Compliance Management Toolkit."

A Windows 7 version of the Toolkit, which provides a guide to hardening Windows-based networks, was released last month.

The NSA main role involves signals intelligence, or spying. Information assurance (i.e. helping to make US IT systems in critical areas of the economy more secure) is a more recent priority.

The agency was the chief backer of the discredited Clipper chip plan back in the '90s, so it's not altogether surprising that sections of the information security community view any of its actions with suspicion.

It's well known that lawful interception (ie. wiretapping) capabilities are a mandatory requirement for telecoms carriers in the US and Britain. However, no credible evidence has ever emerged of a law enforcement backdoor in any operating system. ®

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