Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Report: NSA Has Access to Skype, SkyDrive; MSFT Responds

By - Source: The Guardian | B 141 comments

NSA documents show that Microsoft is working closely with the security agency.

On Thursday The Guardian said that it has received documents showing that Microsoft is collaborating closely with U.S. intelligence services, including the National Security Agency (NSA), as part of the top-secret Prism program. The report specifically talks about the NSA and how Microsoft provided help to circumvent its own encryption.

According to the report, Microsoft provided help to the NSA so that the government agency can intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal – the agency already had access to email on Outlook.com and the former Hotmail service. Microsoft also made it easier for the NSA to access SkyDrive which currently has over 250 million users worldwide.

There's more. The documents show that Microsoft worked with the FBI's Data Intercept Unit to "understand" the potential issues email aliases in Outlook.com can create. Microsoft's Skype division also worked with intelligence agencies to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio. The final highlight in the report is that material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA.

The Guardian points out that Microsoft's latest marketing campaign, launched in April, says that "Your privacy is our priority", emphasizing its commitment to privacy. Skype preaches something similar, saying that "Skype is committed to respecting your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal data, traffic data and communications content." But internal NSA documents suggest that the relationship between the agency and Microsoft is "deep and ongoing".

The latest documents come from the NSA's Special Source Operations (SSO) division. It's responsible for all programs aimed at U.S. communications systems through corporate partnerships, including Prism. Based on the documents, The Guardian has provided a long chronological outline showing when and how Microsoft cooperated with the NSA. As an example, the solution to tune into Outlook.com chats was set in place on December 12, 2012, two months before Outlook.com came out of beta in February. Skype joined Prism in February 2011, eight months before it joined the Microsoft collective.

"According to the NSA documents, work had begun on smoothly integrating Skype into Prism in November 2010, but it was not until 4 February 2011 that the company was served with a directive to comply signed by the attorney general," The Guardian states.

To read the full report, head here. Meanwhile, Microsoft has responded to the disclosure, as shown below:

"We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues.

"First, we take our commitments to our customers and to compliance with applicable law very seriously, so we provide customer data only in response to legal processes.  Second, our compliance team examines all demands very closely, and we reject them if we believe they aren’t valid.  Third, we only ever comply with orders about specific accounts or identifiers, and we would not respond to the kind of blanket orders discussed in the press over the past few weeks, as the volumes documented in our most recent disclosure clearly illustrate. To be clear, Microsoft does not provide any government with blanket or direct access to SkyDrive, Outlook.com, Skype or any Microsoft product.

"Finally when we upgrade or update products legal obligations may in some circumstances require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a law enforcement or national security request. There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely.  That’s why we’ve argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues."

The response confirms a statement that The Guardian made in its report, that there are tensions between Silicon Valley and the Obama administration. Firms like Microsoft are lobbying the government to allow them to fully disclose the nature and extent of their co-operation with the NSA. Microsoft and its fellow tech firms want nothing more than to distance themselves from claims of collaboration and teamwork, to show that their participation is driven only by legal compulsion. After all, news of letting the government snoop through your customers' email, voice chats and personal files stored on your servers is bad for business, no?

Trust No One, X-Files style.

Discuss
Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the News comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 28 Hide
    daekar , July 12, 2013 2:14 PM
    The sad thing is, the huddled masses won't know or care about the implications of all this until it's far too late. It's said that wars are like Christmas for governments, but this terrorist thing is brilliant. It's like a ready-made excuse to do whatever you want, a boogeyman brought out when people start to think for themselves. We don't even have to be at war anymore to enjoy the fruits of paranoia.

    It's all for the children!
  • 25 Hide
    smeezekitty , July 12, 2013 1:53 PM
    Quote:
    inb4 all the scared children and ignorant adults on here raising a --- storm about how evil our government is. Sorry if we want some insiders collecting potential terrorist transmission to protect you guys. Let's all just stop that and see where it takes us.

    You do realize these are violating the US constitution, right? The so called supreme law.

    That makes the US government a form of terrorist on its own citizens.

  • 18 Hide
    Rahbot , July 12, 2013 1:59 PM
    Well big brother is loose.... with no reigns to hold them back from taking more rights from people. This very bad, bad in-such a way that people are loosing their rights faster and faster.
Other Comments
    Display all 141 comments.
  • 15 Hide
    PedanticNo1 , July 12, 2013 1:05 PM
    These companies just give people more and more reasons to pirate.

    Downrate all you want. I never said I supported it, it's a simple fact that they're building resentment.
  • 25 Hide
    smeezekitty , July 12, 2013 1:53 PM
    Quote:
    inb4 all the scared children and ignorant adults on here raising a --- storm about how evil our government is. Sorry if we want some insiders collecting potential terrorist transmission to protect you guys. Let's all just stop that and see where it takes us.

    You do realize these are violating the US constitution, right? The so called supreme law.

    That makes the US government a form of terrorist on its own citizens.

  • 18 Hide
    Rahbot , July 12, 2013 1:59 PM
    Well big brother is loose.... with no reigns to hold them back from taking more rights from people. This very bad, bad in-such a way that people are loosing their rights faster and faster.
  • 13 Hide
    theco0n , July 12, 2013 2:03 PM
    They may as well burn the constitution as no one follows it.
  • 28 Hide
    daekar , July 12, 2013 2:14 PM
    The sad thing is, the huddled masses won't know or care about the implications of all this until it's far too late. It's said that wars are like Christmas for governments, but this terrorist thing is brilliant. It's like a ready-made excuse to do whatever you want, a boogeyman brought out when people start to think for themselves. We don't even have to be at war anymore to enjoy the fruits of paranoia.

    It's all for the children!
  • 10 Hide
    killerclick , July 12, 2013 2:29 PM
    People who value their privacy have alternatives. Most don't care though, but they lack foresight. Sure you trust Obama/Bush/whoever but what if some Stalin-like figure wins the presidency in 30 years and his cadre controls the Senate? Then everything you did in the last 30 years will be available for them to use against you. Supported Edward Snowden on a comment board? Off to the camp with you.
  • 13 Hide
    smeezekitty , July 12, 2013 2:40 PM
    JPNpower:

    So I suppose it is ok with you if the government turns completely like big brother and one can be arrested for "thoughtcrime"
  • -2 Hide
    acadia11 , July 12, 2013 2:46 PM
    Really , the NSA has technology to enforce packet tapping, I can't believe it? Privacy does not mean that NSA can not read your info, it just means they can't read it without a warrant. This is no different than technology existing for phone tapping. Except it's now for packet based data.

    PRISM is legal. The question is how is it used is legal or not. For example, the Snowden leak speaks about the Call record matching, which is metadata technically, and companies own metadata it's their property if they so choose to give it to whom ever. Now the details and content of your calls could be protected under illegal search and seizure if a warrant doesn't exist. But even that is relative? With over the air signaling is it private???
  • 2 Hide
    acadia11 , July 12, 2013 2:49 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    inb4 all the scared children and ignorant adults on here raising a --- storm about how evil our government is. Sorry if we want some insiders collecting potential terrorist transmission to protect you guys. Let's all just stop that and see where it takes us.

    You do realize these are violating the US constitution, right? The so called supreme law.

    That makes the US government a form of terrorist on its own citizens.



    The existence of the technology is not violation of the US constitution. The violation is if they used it without a warrant. The government can in fact search your home, they just can't do it without a warrant, tey in fact, can tap your packet based data they just can't do it without a warrant.



  • -4 Hide
    acadia11 , July 12, 2013 2:50 PM
    Quote:
    JPNpower:

    So I suppose it is ok with you if the government turns completely like big brother and one can be arrested for "thoughtcrime"


    Why would they need to turn like Big Brother when people freely post on face book, internet forums, and so on ... there is no need to spy on anyone they willing give up information.

  • -4 Hide
    acadia11 , July 12, 2013 2:52 PM
    Quote:
    The sad thing is, the huddled masses won't know or care about the implications of all this until it's far too late. It's said that wars are like Christmas for governments, but this terrorist thing is brilliant. It's like a ready-made excuse to do whatever you want, a boogeyman brought out when people start to think for themselves. We don't even have to be at war anymore to enjoy the fruits of paranoia.

    It's all for the children!


    What are you talking about? The government can tap your phone, they can read your mail, now that they have created the technology to tap packet based data, or rater the latest means of communication, wat's the difference.

    The governemtn has always had the ability to read communications, the only that has canged over time is the means of communication. They can only use that tech with warrant of course. But the creation of the technology is not against the constitution.

  • 8 Hide
    smeezekitty , July 12, 2013 3:30 PM
    Quote:


    The existence of the technology is not violation of the US constitution. The violation is if they used it without a warrant. The government can in fact search your home, they just can't do it without a warrant, tey in fact, can tap your packet based data they just can't do it without a warrant.


    But the thing is it it likely is being used without a warrant.
    It isn't actually a bad thing for governments to have the ability to extract information if there is a crime to be investigated.

    But it seems like they are severely abusing it.
  • 4 Hide
    knightmike , July 12, 2013 3:51 PM
    Do you think BitLocker is safe? I get the strange feeling MSFT has a master key for it they share with government agencies.
  • 16 Hide
    nerrawg , July 12, 2013 3:54 PM
    Quote:
    DAEKAR... umm... I personally think that you are more dangerous to society than the NSA. I don't know about drug dealers like yourself, but I couldn't care for 3 seconds if the government knew everything I did.


    Wow! I'm just shocked at how narrow minded some of you are, especially when I know that you're "intelligent" people. Do you really think this is about what people e-mail each other or who's friends with whom on facebook!? That is the tip of the iceberg, actually its not even the iceberg at all...

    This is about unrestricted corporate and political espionage on an unprecedented scale, with the potential to destroy start-ups and innovation through small business on a mass scale and render any political system entirely undemocratic. Democracy, when you get into the details of how it works as a system, requires privacy to function.

    Everything that is stored digitally is now not safe no matter how well encrypted. With the huge NSA infrastructure, they chew through AES 256 and anything else in minutes, not to mention that it is pretty safe to assume they have quantum up and running.

    So pause .... and think about that for a moment.

    This is about the potenial for rampant IP theft prior to any possibility of patenting and without any means of impartial or judicial oversight. Anyone with access to the NSA database will be able to aspire to levels of corruption that were heretofore unimaginable. I find it hilarious that people are discussing privacy in terms of private messages and personal info or opinions. This is much greater, this is the capability for complete and absolute insider trading on a mass-scale. This is the ability to render any politician or indeed any political system entirely insignificant insofar as those with access will know every single opinion, idea and decision by anyone of any significance in terms of power. Supreme Court Justices, Lawyers in anti-trust suites, Congressmen, Senators, investigative journalists, CEOs, Professors in fields of scientific research etc etc. This is a simultaneous assault on the vestiges of the 4th and 5th Estates from which threatens to evict us "the people" from any entitlements in either of them. In terms of knowledge and power, the NSA database projects combine to create the largest, most powerful unifying force in history with ability to gift the accepted few power that we cannot even begin to conceive the full ramifications of.

    Sure, Govt. has always been in surveillance of its citizens, but this has always been a numbers game. Whenever the powers that be have acquired disproportionate power to render numbers and public opinion powerless bad things happen. Critically, Govt. has never before in history been able to render the numbers in the surveillance game insignificant. They now sit on the doorstep of the that potentiality.

    I'm not saying that this is happening right now, but that it is the path we are on. Certainly in light of the Snowden leak they are learning their lessons. Soon all low and mid level operators will be on the old WWII style directives of a strictly "need-to-know" basis. Once this is inevitably implemented to safeguard against leakers, the next inevitable step is the eventual corruption of those few who sit with the bigger picture. As there is no effective oversight in place, there is no way that this will not happen.

    So sure, I could care less if the Govt. knows what I am doing. Heck, I would love it if someone there was interested in the immunological research that I conduct or the political opinions that I hold, but I highly doubt that is the case. Which is why I am writing this right now. What I care about is the ramifications that this will have on the free market and the global economy, not to mention human progress. I see this gargantuan surveillance system as the most ridiculous and wasteful example of "security theatre" yet to exist, but I fear a far worse conclusion if it is allowed to continue in the direction it is currently heading
Display more comments