Microsoft Using Encryption to Take On NSA

Dennis Faas's picture

New reports suggest Microsoft is planning to take on National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance by stepping up its encryption. The hope appears to be that by encrypting more information the NSA will have limited access to Microsoft's sensitive data.

Microsoft executives are reportedly meeting to determine what encryption techniques could be used to prevent the National Security Agency from spying on the company and its customers.

Washington Post Report Alarms Tech Titans

It's part of a response to a Washington Post report which appeared to prove that Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo are being targeted on a regular basis by NSA spies.

Leaked NSA slides discuss the process of collecting emails associated with Microsoft's Hotmail, Google's Gmail, and Yahoo's Yahoo! Mail services.

The Washington Post also published an NSA email that discusses exploiting holes in Microsoft Passport, a service that allows users to employ a single name and password to access a wide range of websites. (Source:

The Washington Post report suggested that spying on Microsoft Passport was part of a new National Security Agency surveillance project called MUSCULAR.

Subsequent reports on MUSCULAR have indicated that the project is a joint operation being conducted by the NSA in association with GCHQ, its British equivalent.

Microsoft Finds Evidence "Very Disturbing"

Microsoft lawyer Brad Smith immediately responded to the Washington Post report by calling the evidence "very disturbing."

"If they are true these actions amount to hacking and seizure of private data and in our view are a breach of the protection guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution," Smith added. (Source:

Shortly thereafter Smith told Microsoft shareholders that the Redmond, Washington-based firm is "focused on engineering improvements that will further strengthen security, including strengthening security against snooping by governments."

Both Google and Yahoo have announced their own plans for enhancing encryption strategies in an effort to keep the NSA in the dark as much as possible.

"We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform," noted Google's chief legal officer, David Drummond, late last month. (Source:

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