Earlier this week we learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been working with Microsoft to improve the security measures of Windows 7.
"Working in partnership with Microsoft and (the Department of Defense), NSA leveraged our unique expertise and operational knowledge of system threats and vulnerabilities to enhance Microsoft's operating system security guide without constraining the user's ability to perform their everyday tasks," said Richard Schaeffer, the NSA's Information Assurance Director. "All this was done in coordination with the product release, not months or years later in the product cycle."
This cooperation by the two bodies led some to theorize that the NSA and Microsoft may have somehow built a backdoor into Windows 7.
Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronics Privacy Information Center (EPIC), expressed his concern as the NSA has an interest in surveillance as as a part of its efforts in security.
"The key problem is that NSA has a dual mission, COMPUSEC, computer security, now called cyber security, and SIGINT, signals intelligence, in other words surveillance," Rotenberg said in an e-mail.
Microsoft quickly responded to such concerns.
"Microsoft has not and will not put 'backdoors' into Windows," a company spokeswoman said to Computerworld. "The work being discussed here is purely in conjunction with our Security Compliance Management Toolkit."
Of course, that's the expected response and conspiracy theorists won't likely be set easy with just that statement.
"The key point is that the NSA is not the right agency to promote computer security in the private sector," Rotenberg argued. "The risks to end users are real -- the original NSA key escrow proposal, 'Clipper,' was a terrible idea -- and there is too little transparency about these arrangements."
Besides which, if you're really worried, you can always install a 3rd party, whole disk encryption like TrueCrypt or PGP.
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." -Benjamin Franklin
"Only those who break laws need to worry about surveillance". That is so wrong! What happens IF the gov't one day pushes an unjust law (there are arguably many of those right now). If the state has complete surveillance (which you want), and you break that unjust law, you'll go to jail or worse. Society can't allow their privacy and freedoms to be taken away for paranoia of an overblown threat (terrorism, crime, etc). You can't allow your freedoms to be taken so easily under the ruse of national security. Do you know for sure you nation is insecure? Could it be that the media/gov't and private security companies would use your fears to take your freedoms unchallenged?!
It's true that only criminals have anything to fear from surveillance, but what happens when the definition of, criminal, changes? Do you agree with every law?