Microsoft's Road to Consumer Trust is Open (Source)

By Nicholas Petreley , ITworld |  How-to

When a software company will not make the source code for a product
available, one must put one's faith in something called security
through obscurity. The argument for security through obscurity is
simple. If crackers could get to the source code, it would be easy for
them to find ways to exploit weaknesses in the product.

While that sounds like a logical argument, it is easily refuted. If you
are not already convinced by the numerous Windows, Internet Explorer,
and Microsoft Outlook exploits, then pay a visit to Game Copy World
sometime. You'll see just how easy it is for people to break the copy
protection for games without having to see the source code. The site
often publishes copy protection workarounds the same day a game is
released. (By the way, I believe Game Copy World is actually providing
a legitimate and valuable service. As someone with young children, I
can confirm the need to make backup copies of games that get scratched
and ruined by reckless little fingers.)

Ironically, we open source advocates have confidence in the security of
open source software for the same reason others defend security through
obscurity -- open source code actually does make it easier to spot
weaknesses in a product. We simply take the next step in the logic. If
having the source code makes it easy to spot weaknesses, then the best
way to find and plug security holes is to make the source code as
widely available as possible and solicit the input of those who use it.

NSA key revisited
A greater security risk than system cracking concerns me, one that is
only possible through source code obscurity: intentional backdoors.

A couple years ago, researchers discovered that Windows 95, Windows 98,
Windows NT, and Windows 2000 include two cryptographic keys. When a
Windows service pack accidentally failed to cloak the identity of the
keys, Andrew Fernandes discovered that the second key was called
_NSAKEY. The implication is that Microsoft provided the National
Security Agency (NSA) a way to crack into or decrypt information on any
Windows box for surveillance or data-recovery purposes.

Microsoft denies providing the NSA with a backdoor, of course, and says
the NSA label only indicates that the key meets the cryptographic
requirements of the NSA. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if
Microsoft is telling the truth. After all, if it is true that the NSA
has a backdoor into every Windows system, then what could one expect
Microsoft to say? Such an admission might as well be followed by
instructions on how to remove Windows and replace it with just about
anything else.

It's bad enough that Microsoft and the NSA may have peepholes into our
desktops and servers. But what about the crackers who broke into
Microsoft recently? Do they now have those same peepholes?

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