crackers who broke into Microsoft modify any source code in order to
introduce new backdoors into Windows, or expand existing ones? Did the
crackers steal any of the source code? Is there enough information in
the source code to provide the crackers a backdoor into Windows
systems? Is there enough information there to provide the crackers with
a way to decrypt information on any given system without having to know
Just as important are the following questions: Who are the crackers?
Are they operating alone or with the aid of a rival company or nation?
With whom will the crackers share the source code, assuming it has been
Depending on the answers, the recent security breach could lead to some
alarming possibilities. Given enough information, unknown people,
companies, or even nations could soon easily crack into Windows systems
and decrypt the information there. If Microsoft knows this is the case,
it is not in a position to admit it. To do so would create an
embarrassment from which not even Microsoft could recover. An admission
would also compromise any relationship Microsoft may have with the NSA.
It's time for Microsoft to face reality and open Windows' source code.
Aside from encouraging customers to go into denial, that is the only
way Microsoft can restore confidence in the security of Windows. People
must have the ability to examine, modify, recompile and reinstall the
code on their own. Then, and only then, can Windows customers have any
assurance that their systems are safe from prying eyes.
Paranoia or reality?
When I worked on a defense project many years ago, I was required to
get secret clearance. An FBI agent briefed many of us who received
clearance on the techniques foreign governments may use to get
information from us.
One of those techniques is blackmail. The process is simple. The spies
get someone to entice you into his or her hotel room and seduce you.
Naturally, someone takes pictures of the hotel room activities, and
uses those pictures to blackmail you for secrets. According to the FBI
agent who briefed us, that sort of thing takes place only in Europe. I
asked the fellow exactly where in Europe I could go for such blackmail.
He actually did give me directions, but he didn't think my question was
very amusing. FBI people have no sense of humor.
The agent also walked us through the tactics that a spy would use in
the US to try to obtain secrets. I dismissed it all as silly paranoia.
Then one day while I was riding the train home from work, I made the
mistake of whining about government waste to the passenger next to me,
someone who claimed to be a Russian translator for the Library of
It took me completely by surprise when he then followed exactly the
pattern the FBI agent had said spies would use to gain your confidence.