Feeds

Microsoft FAILS to encrypt data centre links despite NSA snooping

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

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
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
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.