Researcher: CIA, NSA may have infiltrated Microsoft to write malware

Did spies posing as Microsofties write malware in Redmond? How do you spell 'phooey' in C#?

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A leading security researcher has suggested Microsoft's core Windows and application development programming teams have been infiltrated by covert programmer/operatives from U.S. intelligence agencies.

If it were true it would be another exciting twist to the stories of international espionage, sabotage and murder that surround Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame, the most successful cyberwar weapons deployed so far, with the possible exception of Windows itself.

Nevertheless, according to Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer of antivirus and security software vendor F-Secure, the scenario that would make it simplest for programmers employed by U.S. intelligence agencies to create the Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame viruses and compromise Microsoft protocols to the extent they could disguise downloads to Flame as patches through Windows Update is that Microsoft has been infiltrated by members of the U.S. intelligence community.

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Having programmers, spies and spy-supervisors from the NSA, CIA or other secret government agencies infiltrate Microsoft in order to turn its technology to their own evil uses (rather than Microsoft's) is the kind of premise that would get any writer thrown out of a movie producer's office for pitching an idea that would put the audience to sleep halfway through the first act.

Not only is it unlikely, the "action" most likely to take place on the Microsoft campus would be the kind with lots of tense, acronymically dense debates in beige conference rooms and bland corporate offices.

The three remarkable bits of malware that attacked Iranian nuclear-fuel development facilities and stole data from its top-secret computer systems – Flame Duqu and Stuxnet – show clear signs of having been built by the same teams of developers, over a long period of time, Hypponen told PC Pro in the U.K.

Flame used a counterfeit Microsoft security certificates to verify its trustworthiness to Iranian users, primarily because Microsoft is among the most widely recognized and trusted computer companies in the world, Hypponen said.

Faking credentials from Microsoft would give the malware far more credibility than using certificates from other vendors, as would hiding updates in Windows Update, Hypponen said.

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