On Wednesday Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, wrote in a company blog post that Microsoft would encrypt Internet traffic traveling through its data centers. In the post, he compared government surveillance to sophisticated malware and cyber attacks. The company is taking the steps necessary to prevent government surveillance of the Internet. The steps will ensure that any surveillance is conducted legally rather than by a technological deception.
Smith implied the company was alarmed by documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden; saying Microsoft was especially alarmed by the assertion that “some governments” had collected their customer’s data from the Internet without warrants. “If true, these efforts threaten to seriously undermine confidence in the security and privacy of online communications,” Smith said in the post. “Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an ‘advanced persistent threat,’ alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks.”
Newly surfaced documents show the NSA secretly accessed data from more than a few tech giants, the Washington Post reported in October. The NSA used a program called Muscular to intercept unencrypted Internet traffic. By the end of 2014, Microsoft plans to change over to stronger 2,048-bit encryption keys, following Google’s example. It would take more than a decade for the government to break this type of code due to computing power constraints. In the near future, Facebook and Yahoo also plan to move to 2,048-bit encryption keys.
Microsoft also plans to make its software code more transparent, Smith’s blog stated, to reassure customers that the code contains no “back doors.” “Transparency centers” will be opened in the Americas, Asia and Europe in an effort to reassure governments of product integrity. “We all want to live in a world that is safe and secure, but we also want to live in a country that is protected by the Constitution,” wrote Smith. “We want to ensure that important questions about government access are decided by courts rather than dictated by technological might.”
In early 2014, message encryption for Office 365 will be introduced, Microsoft announced last month, and users’ e-mail will automatically be encrypted. In November, the Washington Post also reported the NSA might have breached Microsoft’s global communications systems and the company is considering overhauling the system for encrypting all Internet traffic.
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