That means either the conspiracy theorists were right, but the NSA only used it for hyper targeted attacks, or Microsofts explanation was correct.
I doubt anyone will ever know.
DoD and IC use Suite A algorithms, which are classified. So they needed NSAKEY, or a private build of Windows that would let them do what they wanted. I think all they could do maliciously with this key is install backdoored crypto suites on victims' computers, which would require Administrator access anyway.
Disclaimer: work at MS, this is well before my time, I have no inside knowledge.
Hm, wouldn't Microsoft make a proof by singing something publically with a private key?
The fact that they haven't reinforces the argument that they don't own the private key (likely, the NSA does as the conspiracy goes)
It would also be trivial for Microsoft to call up the NSA and say "they're ON TO US and it looks bad to our customers, can you please sign this message?" That is, the test you suggest proves nothing-- you can't prove that only you hold a private key.
Pardon my pedantry but I think you meant conspiracy theory.
Conspiracies happen all the time, and by itself the word doesn't imply anything far-fetched or unproven, just plotting to do harm.
Maybe next time I'll write a paragraph shrugs
Time for me to find another community.
"the conspiracy theorists were right, but the NSA only used it for hyper targeted attacks"
Why not both?
I can't see MS admitting to giving out a backdoor key. In any case it's irrelevant as you should always assume everything you don't have source to is compromised.
Everything for which you haven't read, fully understood, and compiled from the source can be compromised. Just because there's source for something somewhere doesn't mean the binary you downloaded is secure.
> Ken describes how he injected a virus into a compiler. Not only did his compiler know it was compiling the login function and inject a backdoor, but it also knew when it was compiling itself and injected the backdoor generator into the compiler it was creating. The source code for the compiler thereafter contains no evidence of either virus.
And then we get into hardware design...
As such, if this were really a backdoor, I'd expect it's identifiers to look maximally boring and no direct reference to the NSA given anywhere.
> In doing this I discovered that the NSA public key had an organizational name of "MiniTruth", and a common name of "Big Brother". Specifically what I saw in my debugger late one night, which was spooky for a short moment was:
O=MiniTruth CN=Big Brother
They were very public about it, though. It sucked they had to water down their encryption, but that was the reality until PGP challenged ITAR head-on.
Also, the name was never supposed to be known - it was due to early releases mistakenly having debug symbols included.
Also, there are at least several other instances that make Microsoft highly suspicious in regards to this stuff, starting with:
- how they bought Skype not long after the NSA was promising billions of dollars (in government contracts most likely) to the company that would bypass Skype's encryption somehow
- changing Skype's architecture to be intercept-able
- Skype entering the PRISM program the moment Microsoft bought it
- some other suspicious "bugs" and design choices in regards to how Bitlocker works, including storing the encryption keys on its servers or defaulting to break-able OEM encryption. Plus the fact that you never do hear about law enforcement being thwarted by laptop encryption
- silently adding root certificates in Windows with no official documentation, some for some oppressive regimes, other for the U.S. government
- Not to mention that the first thought that came to my mind after hearing about all the hidden tracking stuff built into Windows 10 was that Windows 10 must have been designed based on a FBI/NSA wishlist.
If you've ever done anything "wrong" on your Windows 10 machine, the U.S. government will know about it, because Microsoft will know about it. At least Microsoft revealed to us that half of the government's orders to the company were secret and came with gag orders -- too bad they never really fought the government on it and ended-up supporting it with the Cloud Act.
There are probably others I missed myself or forgot about. Nadella must think of us all as idiots if he thinks we'll buy the idea that a specially-made encryption key for various governments doesn't equal a backdoor.
Doesn't this conspiracy theory stretch belief a great deal?
Sorry, but if you've been reading, there's just no other explanation.
Bullrun  definitely suggests it..
FWIW, I am rather skeptic. And I even have reasons: if the NSA has the power to coerce, Apple wouldn’t repeatedly gotten into fights with the US government to unlock iPhones.
Cooperating with the NSA is also clearly not in the companies’ interests. If (when) it comes out, they’d be at risk to lose a lot of business in other countries.
In any case, my usual argument about cynicism applies: spreading such theories becomes self-fulfilling, because why should MS work for the NSA/every politician take bribes/every cook spit in your food, if that’s what the people believe anyway, no matter what you actually do?
Also, I don't think any number of people believing to any extent that a corporation may have been compromised removes an important incentive for that corporation to maintain its integrity. For a security-conscious company, reputation and trust don't go that far so it would be safer to assume that Apple can be or has been compromised maybe even without their knowledge. That company would have to look after its own security and use custom protocols / devices. If it was forced to trust Apple, it would have to find an ingenious way to ensure that was not at all in the interest of Apple to betray them.
The FBI is not the NSA.
The fights that we know about can be nothing more than a marketing stunt. They were what Apple wanted public to know; when leaks happen that Apple doesn't want public to know, Apple's "commitment to privacy" rather pales. Apple was listed as a PRISM data provider, they were accused in using their employee's message data against them. Now they also admit to looking into iCloud photos.
As he pointed out, Back Orifice didn't need a special key.
I'm presuming people looked at it for dubious keys.
So just be careful viewing the incident from 2020 with the purported benefit of decades of hindsight.
Disclaimer: I’m the guy who first found it and announced it at the rump session of the Crypto conference in Santa Barbara that year...
Oh wow, there's an `nsagate` subdomain on `apple.com`!
So it’s not controversial that this was utterly unexploitable without pre-existing local access?
Nobody has ever described how this purported backdoor would be used.
> In addition, Dr. Nicko van Someren found a third key in Windows 2000, which he doubted had a legitimate purpose, and declared that "It looks more fishy".
"Van Someren has published numerous papers in the field of computer security. In 1998 he co-authored a paper with Adi Shamir introducing the concept of key finding attacks. A statistical key finding attack was used by van Someren to locate the signature verification keys used by Microsoft to validate the signatures on MS-CAPI plug-ins. One of these key was later discovered to be referred to as the NSAKEY by Microsoft, sparking some controversy."
"The Microsoft Windows platform specific Cryptographic Application Programming Interface (also known variously as CryptoAPI, Microsoft Cryptography API, MS-CAPI or simply CAPI) is an application programming interface included with Microsoft Windows operating systems that provides services to enable developers to secure Windows-based applications using cryptography. It is a set of dynamically linked libraries that provides an abstraction layer which isolates programmers from the code used to encrypt the data."
Observation: MS-CAPI -- would seem to be, prima facie, similar to Linux's OpenSSL...
> Microsoft said that the key's symbol was "_NSAKEY" because the NSA is the technical review authority for U.S. cryptography export controls, and the key ensures compliance with U.S. export laws.
People have speculated elsewhere in the thread about why they need a second key to be compliant, but as far as I'm aware we don't actually know.
“the _NSAKEY backdoor” would still make an excellent blackhat/defcon talk today if someone could actually demonstrate its existence and explain practical exploitation.
On the other hand “I looked and couldn’t find anything” isn’t really a very meaningful or interesting statement.
All it takes is compromising the ISP, the DNS provider or the local network admin.
Do you have any evidence to back up this claim?
Would be curious to learn why this wouldn't be so, though.
Given Microsoft's close relationship in NSA programs in the past (PRISM, Snowden leaks, others), it's not far-fetched to assume they have a key for a root CA or whatever else is needed for such an attack.