Microsoft to encrypt network traffic amid NSA datacenter link tapping claims

Summary:Suspecting NSA interference, Microsoft is taking a leaf out of Google and Yahoo's books in efforts to prevent surveillance and wiretapping of its global datacenters.

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 08.17.42
Meet MUSCULAR, an NSA program that can tap the links between Google (shown) and Yahoo datacenters. Image via The Washington Post

Microsoft is looking to follow its global cloud partners, Google and Yahoo, in encrypting the traffic flowing between its worldwide datacenter locations, fearing the U.S. government's ability to tap into customer data.

Suspicions at the software turned devices and services giant heightened in October when former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was "tapping" into the private fiber cables connecting the two Internet giant's datacenters.

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Microsoft was not directly implicated in the documents, but the Redmond, Wash.-based company and other technology giants are scrambling to figure out if they are at risk, or have been subject to broad wiretapping.

According to The Washington Post, top Microsoft brass are meeting this week to decide what encryption should be deployed and how quickly. 

Dubbed "Muscular," the NSA works in conjunction with its British counterparts at GCHQ to  intercept the cables  between the two Internet giants' datacenters around the world.

Though Google and other companies spend vast amounts on leasing fiber optic cables from companies in order to keep their data off the "public" Internet, the NSA and GCHQ still reportedly tap these cables at major Internet hubs around the world, including in the U.K.

After the news broke, Google began encrypting datacenter traffic, which should by all accounts at least mitigate some of the NSA's attempts to acquire vast amounts of customer data.

Yahoo subsequently said it would introduce encryption to all of its products by the end of the first quarter of 2014. Chief executive Marissa Mayer Mayer said the company would also encrypt all data between Yahoo datacenters.

Topics: Microsoft, Security, Servers

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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