One of Microsoft’s top security executives said the company has never been asked by the United States government to build a backdoor into any of its products, and if the company was asked, it would fight the order in the courts.

Since the Edward Snowden revelations began last summer, there have been many stories insinuating that large technology vendors such as Microsoft, Google and others may have built backdoors into some of their products in order to enable intelligence agencies or law enforcement to exploit them. Specifically, some of the documents leaked by Snowden last year illustrated close cooperation between Microsoft and the U.S. government on gaining access to some customers’ communications.

Microsoft officials have said that they only provide the cooperation that is required by law or court orders and nothing more. On Thursday, Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, said in a panel discussion at The Aspen Institute that the company would be very hostile to any suggestion of inserting a backdoor into one of its products. Asked specifically about the a backdoor in Skype, which Microsoft bought in 2011, Charney refuted any notion that the government had asked for backdoor access to the product.

“One, they have never done that, and two, we would fight it tooth and nail in the courts,” Charney said. “Under the wiretapping statutes and FISA you can be compelled to provide technical assistance. If they said, put in a backdoor or something like that, we would fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Aside from the potential legal ramifications of such a move, Charney said that granting law enforcement or an intelligence agency secret access to customer data without a warrant or court order would be financial suicide for Microsoft.

“If the government did that, and I really don’t think they would, it would be at the complete expense of American competitiveness,” he said. “Because if we put in a backdoor for the U.S. government, we couldn’t sell anywhere in the world, not even in America.”


Categories: Government, Microsoft, Privacy, Web Security

Comments (7)

  1. R. King

    Well, if I were the CIA, the NSA, or any other nefarious organization trying to get a backdoor into a system, I would’t talk to the company, I’d talk to the company’s sofware engineers.

    I’d find one that can be leveraged — someone with financial difficulties, letal problems, etc… and offer to make those problems go away if they’s just insert a little “bug” into this or that section of code.

    Then I’d use the hell out of it until the bug is found and patched. Then I’d do it all over again.

  2. Anonymous

    Sadly, his words have zero value as long as a legal system that makes his words meaningless is in place.

    The “court” that takes care of this is the FISA court, which is a secret court, which does secret rulings with laws that are secret. If that court rules that Microsoft must place a backdoor, it must, and it must also deny it to the public exactly in the way it is denying it right now.

    I am sad, now I can’t communicate with all of those naive people who still trust and use Skype and use Skype as their primary means of communication.

  3. pitchfork

    uhhh… General motors hid an ignition switch flaw for over a decade that killed 13 people. They lied over and over. When is the last time you believed what comes out of a scumbag Corporation exec’s mouth?

  4. Anonymous

    Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall that there is a stupid law that would REQUIRE Microsoft to lie in case such backdoors did exist. I am not accusing anyone, just sayin’ that such unproven statement are worthless (and make you look dumb).

  5. Anonymous

    A terrific overly specific denial. Why would NSA need a backdoor when MS will provide any data outright? ANd of course, if the NSA discovers a backdoor vulnerability and asks MS not to fix it, well that’s fine too.

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