The Guardian’s latest report on spying claims Microsoft helped the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption, according to files provided by Edward Snowden.
The documents show that the NSA already had access to email on Outlook.com and Hotmail.com before the encryption stage – so they could read stuff before it was encrypted.
The documents also showed the company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access to Sky Drive – Microsoft’s cloud storage service.
In July of last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the the files show the NSA boasted that it had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through the NSA Prism program.
The Guardian reports that blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if an official from the NSA says he has a 51 percent belief that the target is not a U.S. citizen and is not on U.S. soil at the time.
Targeting U.S. citizens does require a warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the person at the other end of the conversation is a foreign national located overseas — even if the computer storing the information is in the U.S.
Microsoft and the other companies listed on the NSA documents have denied all knowledge of the program and insisted that the intelligence agencies do not have back doors into their systems. Microsoft’s latest marketing campaign uses the slogan: “Your privacy is our priority.”
The Guardian is saying that’s basically BS, because Snowden’s documents show within five months of when Microsoft began testing its encrypted chat service, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a way for the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats.
As for Skype, The Guardian reports it was on Feb. 4, 2011 that Microsoft was served with a directive to comply — signed by the attorney general. The NSA was able to start using Skype communications the following day.
In its statement to the Guardian, Microsoft said,
“Our compliance team examines all demands very closely, and we reject them if we believe they aren’t valid […] we only ever comply with orders about specific accounts […] and we would not respond to the kind of blanket orders discussed in the press over the past few weeks.”
The company went on to say, “Finally when we upgrade or update products, legal obligations may require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a national security request. There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely.”
But if you’re worried about the NSA digging up your personal conversations, you can use a tactic from Russia’s Federal Protective Service (the successor to the KGB.) They placed an order for 20 typewriters, and are reportedly ready to pay $750 a piece for them.
The news agency Izvestia said the Kremlin believed it was necessary to expand the use of typewriters after Edward Snowden reportedly used a simple flash drive to reveal the extent of the U.S. government’s phone and Internet surveillance programs.
Typewriters have already been used for printing drafts of some official documents and reports presented to President Putin, according to the report.
KIRO Radio Morning News Anchor Linda Thomas contributed to this report.