Feeds

Microsoft frisked blogger's Hotmail inbox, IM chat to hunt Windows 8 leaker, court told

Ex-employee charged with revealing trade secrets

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

An ex-Microsoft worker faces criminal prosecution in the US over allegations he leaked work-in-progress Windows 8 software to a French blogger.

Russian national Alex Kibkalo was arrested in Seattle, Washington, on Wednesday, charged with the theft of trade secrets, and held in custody without bail.

Kibkalo, who worked for Microsoft in Lebanon and Russia, allegedly gave his employer's confidential files to an unnamed blogger, according to a criminal complaint [PDF] filed by prosecutors.

The French blog writer had a particular interest in posting screenshots of pre-release versions of the Windows operating system.

In the complaint, an FBI special agent revealed details of an internal probe by Microsoft's anti-leak team, dubbed the Trustworthy Computing Investigations department, following a tipoff from a source: it's claimed the firm looked through its servers and uncovered evidence that Kibkalo had emailed the blogger's Microsoft-hosted Hotmail account to leak "proprietary and confidential trade secrets."

Grab of the complaint PDF

Email accounts probed ... the relevant passages from the Kibkalo allegations describing how Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Investigations (TWCI) team was tipped off about the blogger's Hotmail address prior to accessing it for clues (click to enlarge)

The confidential data was allegedly shared via Kibkalo's personal Windows Live SkyDrive account between July and August 2012 while he was still an employee. The cache was said to have included pre-release software updates for Windows 8-powered devices, a copy of the Microsoft Activation Server Software Development Kit, and unreleased versions of Windows Live Messenger.

Access to the development kit would be a boon for hackers trying to reverse-engineer the code used to thwart software piracy, the court in Washington was told. The alleged theft of the activation server software is the subject of the trade-secret theft charge against Kibkalo.

The defendant, who was based in Lebanon at the time of the alleged leak, apparently used a virtual machine on a Microsoft-hosted server to facilitate the transfer of the purloined files. This data was offered to the blogger in emails sent from a mail.ru account to the writer's Hotmail inbox, the court was told. The pair nattered about the illicit exchange using Microsoft's MSN chat system, it was claimed.

The alleged use of Microsoft's communications and storage technology for such an exercise was a dumb move as it made it easier for Redmond's sleuths to piece together their case: the software giant, on its own initiative, leafed through the blogger's Hotmail account and instant-messenger chatter logs in a bid to out the leaker, according to special agent Armando Ramirez's report to the court.

The company's investigators reckon Kibkalo turned against Microsoft after scoring a poor performance review after working for the firm for seven years. The Redmond sleuths confronted him in September 2012, and then went to the FBI with their evidence the following July.

The software architect, who is no longer a Microsoftie and was working for a US-based company at the time of his arrest, is also suspected of leaking Windows 7 files to a blogger he initially met on an online forum, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

The blogger implicated in the case reportedly admits publishing the information he received as well as selling Windows Server activation keys on eBay.

"We take protection of our intellectual property very seriously, including cooperating with law-enforcement agencies who are investigating potential criminal actions by our employees or others," a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement to reporters.

The case is filed as USA v. Kibkalo in the Western District of Washington. ®

Bootnote

Would-be whistleblowers, or anyone sensitive about their privacy, take note: the terms of service for Hotmail and other Windows Live things includes the line: "You consent and agree that Microsoft may access, disclose, or preserve information associated with your use of the services ... [to] protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers."

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
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?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.