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Fri Dec 6, 2013, 03:37 PM

Microsoft Compares Government to Cyber Criminals



When does the national security budget become a national security risk?


Now, I'll be the first to take Microsoft word with a grain of salt. I feel that Microsoft's legacy of awesome business decisions don't always equal technological advancement for the rest of society.

But today they made an excellent point.

Brad Smith, Executive Vice President for Microsoft's Legal and Corporate Affairs, summarized the situation on the official Microsoft blog. He cited the government as an "advanced persistent threat" which roughly translates to "cyber criminals". You can read the details below:

Smith, B. (2013, December 4). Protecting customer data from government snooping. Retrieved from http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_blog/archive/2013/12/04/protecting-customer-data-from-government-snooping.aspx

Many of our customers have serious concerns about government surveillance of the Internet.

We share their concerns. That’s why we are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to access customer data.

Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data. In particular, recent press stories have reported allegations of governmental interception and collection – without search warrants or legal subpoenas – of customer data as it travels between customers and servers or between company data centers in our industry.

If true, these efforts threaten to seriously undermine confidence in the security and privacy of online communications. Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an “advanced persistent threat,” alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks.

In light of these allegations, we’ve decided to take immediate and coordinated action in three areas:

· We are expanding encryption across our services.


· We are reinforcing legal protections for our customers’ data.


· We are enhancing the transparency of our software code, making it easier for customers to reassure themselves that our products do not contain back doors.


All of these changes in policy I agree with . It's a well documented fact that the federal government has been pouring NSA and CIA funds into silicone valley. This last year it was approximately 30 to 50 Billion dollars (the real number has been kept secret and the CIA cites "national security" rationale). Microsoft reported Microsoft reported $21.76 billion in profits for fiscal year 2012.** Microsoft needs to come up with a dynamic methods to prevent NSA agents from stealing their intellectual property. The NSA spends maybe twice (2x) as much money lobbying silicon valley as Microsoft reports as profits!

**Robertson, A. (2013, August 29). Unprecedented 'black budget' leak reveals the scope of $52 billion US spy complex. Retrieved from http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/29/4672414/leaked-snowden-documents-reveal-details-of-surveillance-budget


These points made by Smith are particularly poinent in the shadow of the recent revelations regarding NSA's claim that they no longer need search warrants for digital tracking as you can read below:

Soltani, A. & Gellman, B. (2013, December 4). NSA Tracking Cellphone Locations Worldwide, Snowden Documents Show. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-tracking-cellphone-locations-worldwide-snowden-documents-show/2013/12/04/5492873a-5cf2-11e3-bc56-c6ca94801fac_story.html

The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.

The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.


Kravets, D. (2013, December 6). NSA Wrongly Says Warrantless Mobile-Phone Location Tracking Is Legal. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/12/nsa-cell-site-data/

National Security Agency snoops are harvesting as many as 5 billion records daily to track mobile phones as they ping nearby cell towers across the globe.

That alarming scoop by The Washington Post via documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden included wishful thinking from an unnamed government “intelligence lawyer” interviewed in the story. This official, according to the Post, said that the data “are not covered by the Fourth Amendment,” meaning a probable-cause warrant isn’t required to get it.

In reality, however, the case law on cell-site locational tracking — while generally favorable to the government — is far from clear, with federal courts and appellate courts offering mixed rulings on whether warrants are needed.


Overall, I'm glad to see that at least one multi-billion dollar enterprise standing in support of the 4th Amendment. I hope that they continue to push the government on why search warrants are necessary in our modern democracy--even if they are doing it out of their own self-interest.

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dsteve01 Dec 2013 OP
RC Dec 2013 #1
dsteve01 Dec 2013 #2

Response to dsteve01 (Original post)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 04:19 PM

1. In this part, that unnamed government “intelligence lawyer” is wrong. Very wrong.

 

That alarming scoop by The Washington Post via documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden included wishful thinking from an unnamed government “intelligence lawyer” interviewed in the story. This official, according to the Post, said that the data “are not covered by the Fourth Amendment,” meaning a probable-cause warrant isn’t required to get it.


Just because it is needed for the technology to work, does not mean a search warrant is not required. This is most diffidently a 4th Amendment violation, if no warrant is in evidence. Especially when vacuuming up everyone's communication data.

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Response to RC (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 06:35 PM

2. Preaching to the Chior

I know, I know. But where do we even start with the appealing process? How do you work against a shadow lawyer in a backwoods, yet corporate nightmare?

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