News Analysis

Microsoft insists: no Vista back door

Microsoft has insisted that its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system will not have a ‘back door’ that can be used by police forces to get access to encrypted files.

Reports had suggested that the British government was in discussions with Microsoft over the provision of a method of bypassing normal authentication to gain access to a system without the PC user knowing.

But Microsoft has debunked the suggestion that it might go along with such a suggestion, and insisted that it will not put back doors into Windows.

Ironically, the need for the back door has arisen because Microsoft has hardened its security for Vista. One aspect of the operating system, BitLocker Drive Encryption, encrypts data to protect it if the computer is lost or stolen, which could make it harder for law enforcement agencies to get access to data on seized computers.

Microsoft said back doors “are simply not acceptable” and doubted that anyone on its team would be willing to implement and test the back door. To emphasise the point, one Microsoft developer and cryptographer even wrote "Over my dead body” on a corporate blog.

I hope that this really is Microsoft’s position, and not that in order to gain a few lucrative public sector contracts, there is an unrecorded, unminuted agreement for the development of such a back door. 


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