January 21, 2014, 5:44 PM — So you know how the NSA has its hands in everything and can even snoop on computers when they're not even online? Well, it looks like software manufacturers have hidden powers as well. At least, Microsoft does, as evidenced by the company's ability to remotely remove Tor from millions of people's computers--without them knowing it.
Update: A spokesperson from Microsoft wrote in to correct this story: “Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC) has protections to remove the services started by the Sefnit malware, but it does not uninstall Tor, remove any Tor binaries, or prevent users from using Tor.” [Still a little weird with all the Tor developer quotes in the source article, but good to know what happened in this instance.]
Daily Dot reports how a piece of malware called Sefnit was using anonymizing software Tor to enslave computers to mine bitcoins. In a short time, the Tor network jumped from 1 million users to 5.5 million, with the botnet infecting those new millions of Windows computers.
So, Microsoft remotely removed the Sefnit malware and the Tor client with it.
The good news is that Microsoft has users' backs and is proactively protecting us from these attacks, as they explain in their blog post. The remote program removal was likely done through Windows Updates or Microsoft security software, such as Microsoft Securrity Essentials and Windows Defender.
However, this ability to delete programs remotely is kind of nice to know about, especially in this age of Big Brother controls. As Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum says:
“That’s a lot of power that Microsoft has there,” Applebaum continued, raising his voice and laughing at the implications. “If you’re using Windows trying to be anonymous, word to the wise: Bad idea.
[h/t The Daily Dot]
Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.