For months, there've been questions regarding just how secure Skype's encryption was. After Microsoft bought the VOIP company it began moving to a more centralized node structure that made it easier to scale the product but at the cost of intrinsic security. Now, it seems such concerns were valid -- new leaked documents from The Guardian allege that the NSA has an effective backdoor to all of Microsoft's online products including Skype
, and SkyDrive
While The Guardian doesn't have any slides to show this time around, it suggests that Microsoft has gone beyond the minimal amount of grudging cooperation mandated by law. The company has reportedly helped the NSA "understand" certain alias and encryption features in its software, allowed it to intercept chats passing through the Outlook.com servers, and been so helpful that the NSA
has described working with the company as a "team sport." Access to SkyDrive files is handled via PRISM and NSA documents praise Microsoft for simplifying this process over the past 12 months.
SkyDrive Integration Suddenly Looks A Whole Lot Less Appealing
In a statement, Microsoft
said: "When we upgrade or update products we aren't absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands." The company reiterated its argument that it provides customer data "only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers."
But here's the problem with that defense. Initially, Microsoft and other tech companies portrayed themselves as reluctant partners that only turned over data when forced to do so, and then, only the minimal amount required by law. The descriptions of Microsoft's participation, however, don't paint the picture of a company cooperating because it has no other choice. They imply instead that Microsoft has been an enthusiastic partner in a systemic degradation of its users' rights. While I'm the first to acknowledge that Redmond had little choice when it comes to participating in PRISM
, these latest leaks paint a far more troubling picture. Microsoft's participation in the NSA's program looks far more eager than the "Reluctant company forced to share data" it had suggested.
Needless to say, I won't be using SkyDrive when it becomes the default storage option in Windows 8.1. Will you?