Microsoft Denies Windows 7 Has NSA Backdoor

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."

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • lenell86
    Enemy of the State
  • hakesterman
    Alot of Huppla about nothing. If this helps the FBI catch future terrorists i'm all for it, if your not doing anything majorly wrong you have nothing to worry about. IF your steeling money with your PC or useing it for terrorism activitys than maybe it's not for you. If Microsoft is telling the truth which i think they are, than it's win win for all except the hackers.
  • jellico
    I wouldn't worry so much about Microsoft announcing a collaboration with the NSAs COMPUSEC group. I would be more concerned if there were reports from, "employees speaking on condition of anonymity" about collaboration with the NSA that the company officially denied.

    Besides which, if you're really worried, you can always install a 3rd party, whole disk encryption like TrueCrypt or PGP.
  • jerrspud
    oh brother, this is way to paranoid. Up there with black helicopters
  • commandersozo
    I don't think Microsoft would go along with any surveillance plans, especially since several governments have had a merry old time screwing them over. I also don't think Microsoft programmers would let an obvious thing like an NSA back door slip past them, so I think we're safe...

  • El_Capitan
    Even if it did, Microsoft would deny it, anyways.
  • ptroen
    Support Reactos and opensource while using Windows. Face it without access to the source code you have no idea what's going on your system unless you hex edit the entire windows api. IF MS turns into a big brother OS at least you have a viable choice with open source(sorry don't count snow leopard).
  • Parrdacc
    Well I do not think you can trust either M$ or the NSA. No need to go into why M$ should be looked at with a weary eye everyone hear already knows why. As for the NSA, well, we all know they have had the authority for a while now to spy, survey, and keep tabs on Americans for years. So how can you trust them to tell you straight up, especially when they say one thing but M$ says the other. It just starts raising questions conspiracy or not.

    "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." -Benjamin Franklin
  • sunflier
    "Microsoft has not and will not put 'backdoors' into Windows..."
    When asked, "whats a backdoor"? Micrsoft had no comment.
  • hixbot
    hakestermanIf your not doing anything majorly wrong you have nothing to worry about.This is exactly the attitude that will turn your free country into a controlled state.
    "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?