Feeds

Windows 8

Apple iOS 7 makes some users literally SICK. As in puking, not upset

Excessive zoom and 3D-effect graphics in Apple's latest iOS is leaving some users reaching for the sick bucket

Microsoft denies Windows 8 app spying via SmartScreen

No secret spying plan in new OS

Website security in corporate America

Microsoft has moved to quell fears that Windows 8 is building up a detailed record of all applications stored on client machines via its SmartScreen application.

An analysis by security researcher Nadim Kobeissi noticed a potential privacy violation in Windows 8's SmartScreen system, which checks applications that the user wants to install against a database of known dodgy code and warns the user if Redmond's records suggest there may be a problem.

"The big problem is that Windows 8 is configured to immediately tell Microsoft about every app you download and install," Kobeissi wrote. "This is a very serious privacy problem, specifically because Microsoft is the central point of authority and data collection/retention here and therefore becomes vulnerable to being served judicial subpoenas or National Security Letters intended to monitor targeted users."

To make matters worse, the install logs are sent to Microsoft and can be snooped by third-parties, the researcher claims, since the mechanism supports the SSLv2 protocol which is known to be breakable. While it's possible to turn off SmartScreen, it's not easy, and the OS will remind you periodically to turn it back on.

The thought of Microsoft getting a log of every application stored on a client system predictably got some in the IT community's hackles up. Stories like this elicit fears in some quarters that all the data is fed back to a secret room in Redmond, where it is examined by the FBI, RIAA, or the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires.

"We can confirm that we are not building a historical database of program and user IP data," a spokesperson told El Reg. "Like all online services, IP addresses are necessary to connect to our service, but we periodically delete them from our logs. As our privacy statements indicate, we take steps to protect our users’ privacy on the backend. We don’t use this data to identify, contact or target advertising to our users and we don’t share it with third parties."

As for concerns over the leakage of material via SSLv2.0, Microsoft said that it will not use this protocol with Windows 8 and that SmartScreen does not support that version. Kobeissi notes that 14 hours after he posted about the issue a new scan of the servers showed no SSlv2 support, although he stands by his original findings.

Lest you think that Kobeissi is some tinfoil-hat type, he is a respected security researcher in his field. Kobeissi, a Canadian of Lebanese extraction, invented the Cryptocat encrypted chat application and is a strong anti-censorship campaigner.

But while in this case it appears that Microsoft is in the clear, there's still room for improvement. Currently the SmartScreen system does use application information stored at Redmond to validate local apps, hence the information is collected. But Kobeissi points out that the need for this could be eliminated if such data was stored locally on the client end and updated regularly. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.