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3/6/2006
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No Back Door In Vista, Microsoft Promises

The BBC says Windows Vista sports a secret back door for use by stealthy government agents. Not surprisingly, Microsoft comes out swinging to squash the rumor.

Microsoft last week denied rumors that it was leaving a backdoor open in the upcoming Windows Vista so that government authorities could access files encrypted with the new BitLocker technology.

In a blog entry on MSDN, Microsoft developer and cryptographer Niels Ferguson said that such talk was unfounded.

"Over my dead body," Ferguson wrote.

"Back doors are simply not acceptable. Besides, they wouldn't find anybody on this team willing to implement and test the back door."

Ferguson was responding to a report last month by the BBC that claimed the British government's Home Office was "in talks with Microsoft" over BitLocker Drive Encryption, a technology in some, though not all, of the Vista versions planned for later this year. BitLocker can be used in conjunction with USB "tokens" to lock (and unlock) a hard drive's contents.

Ferguson said that Microsoft has talked with governments and law enforcement about Vista and BitLocker, but that those conversations didn't venture into backdoor territory.

"We get questions from law enforcement organizations," he said. "They foresee that they will want to read BitLocker-encrypted data, and they want to be prepared. Like any security technology BitLocker has its avenues of attack and law enforcement should know about them. For example, if they search a house and find a computer, they should also take all USB thumb drives, as these might contain a BitLocker key."

Ferguson promised that Microsoft will post a more detailed document on BitLocker to its Knowledgebase database when Vista ships.

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