Microsoft, The DoD and Windows

Dennis Faas's picture

After coming across the information from the "Does Windows Vista Send Information to the Government?" story, I decided to do a little research on Microsoft, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Security Agency (NSA). What I found was very interesting, and it raises some serious questions.

It's not clear what software was being used by my source as I wrote that previous post. He may be using some sort of file sharing or peer 2 peer (p2p) program. He posted pictures of a log from the peerguardian 2 program, software that isn't listed as compatible with Windows Vista. Just because it's not lcompatible doesn't mean it won't work at all. The author also noted in his post that 99 percent of his software was working ok with Vista.

The NSA, which has been under fire for illegally data-mining and analyzing telephone records (courtesy of AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon), was involved in the development of Windows Vista. There have been rumors of deals between Microsoft and the NSA since 1999.

According to Infoworld, high level deal-making on access to encrypted data took place in 1999 between the NSA, IBM and Microsoft. Microsoft and the NSA finally admitted in January 2007 that the NSA helped in the development of Windows Vista security. Both Microsoft and the NSA declined to be specific about the contributions made by the NSA, although Microsoft appears to have made this announcement to make it look like Vista would be a more secure platform.

As mentioned, there's a history here. The NSA helped with Windows 2000, the consumer version of Windows XP and the corporate version of Windows Server 2003. Microsoft and the DoD have also signed a deal to data-mine health records.

Other U.S. government and international agencies, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), reportedly also helped in the development of Windows Vista.

Microsoft isn't the only corporation that received help from the NSA. Apple and Novell have also allegedly received security advice from them, although the NSA wouldn't comment on their security work with other software firms.

It's time for a more detailed explanation from Microsoft about exactly what information is kept and monitored by Vista, and who it's shared with. If the U.S. federal government can remotely install software that circumvents normal installation methods or if Vista has special services and features built in specifically for that type of data mining, Americans won't be the only ones who have their privacy violated.

Links to all the articles referenced are below:

  • For Windows Vista Security, Microsoft called in pros from the Washington Post.
  • NSA helped Microsoft make Vista secure: Infoworld.
  • Government Health IT news: DoD, Microsoft sign deal to data mine health records.
  • NSA has massive database of American's phone calls: USA Today.
  • Questions and answers about the NSA phone record collection program: USA Today.
  • Overview of the Windows Vista security guide: Microsoft.

Addendum to Microsoft's Security Guides for Windows 2003, XP and Vista and NSA's Guides to Securing Windows 2000 was developed to enhance the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive Department of Defense (DoD) Automated Information Systems (AISs) using the Windows 2003, 2000, XP and Vista operating systems document from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

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