Feeds

Microsoft FAILS to encrypt data centre links despite NSA snooping

Odds of a new 'F*CK YOU NSA' engineer's rant: Medium

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Microsoft has admitted it doesn't yet encrypt "server-to-server" communications, although it plans to review its security arrangements in the wake of ongoing revelations about NSA spying.

The non-cryption admission, made by a senior Microsoft legal officer during an EU inquiry, comes shortly after leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that Google and Yahoo! data centre interconnects were being tapped by the NSA's spies, as part of a program code-named MUSCULAR.

EMEA vice president of legal and corporate affairs, Dorothee Belz, told a hearing of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee, said "today from servers to server transportation is generally not encrypted that is why we are currently reviewing our security systems to avoid the [possibility] that interception into communication can take place."

On PRISM, Belz maintained the line that Microsoft responded to lawful interception requests without give intelligence agencies or police "unfettered access" to its datacentres. "We do not give direct access to our server. We hand over the data. We pull them."

The key exchange comes at around the 2 hour and 40 minute mark in a video of the hearing of the European Parliament inquiry, which took place on Monday (11 November).

Privacy researcher Caspar Bowden, former chief privacy adviser to Microsoft, told The Register: "Every European company which has used US-based cloud services must have a contract which specifies conditions for secure data processing. "It is negligent for cloud companies to have failed to encrypt the high-speed links between datacentres, and this has left EU citizens' data wide open to political and economic surveillance from many SIGINT powers, not just the NSA.

"These risks were well known before Snowden, and European companies who want to show they are serious about data protection will be considering legal action."

A Microsoft spokesperson told El Reg: "Over the last few years, Microsoft and others have increased protection of customer data travelling across the internet by increasing use of SSL for services.

"However, recent disclosures make it clear we need to invest in protecting customers' information from a wide range of threats, which, if the allegations are true, include governments. We are evaluating additional changes that may be beneficial to further protect our customers' data."

The committee of MEPs is running an ongoing inquiry into the dragnet mass surveillance programmes run by the NSA and Britain's GCHQ. Belz appeared before the committee of MEPs together with Nicklas Lundblad, Google's director of public policy and government relations, and Richard Allan, Facebook's EMEA director for public policy.

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! are all (either willing or unwilling) participants in the NSA's notorious PRISM web surveillance dragnet program. MEPs questioned them closely and repeatedly on this but all three repeated earlier denials that they provided backdoor (ie, direct) access to customer data to the NSA – or any other government agency.

Whatever the extent of the tech giants' participation in PRISM, the program evidently wasn't revealing enough for the NSA: hence its decision to use MUSCULAR to covertly hoover up any of the bits it might have otherwise have missed by tapping into fibre-optic links leased, or run, by Google (and others) between its data centres.

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt reacted with indignation to the MUSCULAR revelations while two Google techies went much further in issuing fuck-you diatribes against the NSA over the program.

Google's Lundblad told MEPs that the internet giant is encrypting server connections and data centre interconnects, which he described as an ongoing process that never finishes. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age
Kiwis to seek random investors for crowd-funded randomiser
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.