Andrew Storms, the director of security operations at nCircle Security, didn't put much credence in the idea that Microsoft would allow the NSA to build a hidden entrance to Windows 7. "Would it be surprising to most people that there was a backdoor? No, not with the political agenda of prior administrations," said Storms. "My gut, though, tells me that Microsoft, as a business, would not want to do that, at least not in a secretive way."
Roger Thompson, chief research officer at AVG Technologies, agreed. "I can't imagine NSA and Microsoft would do anything deliberate because the repercussions would be enormous if they got caught," he said in an interview via instant messaging.
"Having said that, I think we should understand that there is every likelihood that certain foreign governments are constantly looking for vulnerabilities that they can use for targeted attacks," Thompson continued. "So if they're poking at us, I think it's reasonable to assume that we're doing something similar. But I seriously doubt an official NSA-Microsoft alliance."
The NSA's Schaeffer added that his agency is also working on engaging other major software makers, including Apple, Sun and Red Hat, on security standards for their products.
"More and more, we find that protecting national security systems demands teaming with public and private institutions to raise the information assurance level of products and services more broadly," Schaeffer said.
Microsoft was not immediately available for comment on the NSA's participation in Windows 7's development.