Microsoft to encrypt network traffic amid NSA datacenter link tapping claims

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

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  • That's not going to help

    There is a NSA backdoor on every windows machine.
    Alan Smithie
    • I hear that

      NSA does what it wants to Linux, Chrome OS, Android, iOS, and Mac OS without even needing a backdoor.

      See what I did there. Made a statement without any proof either.
      • Absence of proof

        Does not prove absence.
        Alan Smithie
        • Ummm...

          You sorta just made his point for him.
          • Smithie is right. There is a backdoor

            I think it is a publicity stunt that executives are talking about encrypting their links.

            At the same time, they provide a backdoor so to let the NSA rifle through everyone's private documents, photos and emails.

            Some months ago, there was a news article in The Guardian newspaper, explaining how Microsoft hands the keys to the NSA. Do a web search for the following headline:
            "Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages"
          • Backdoors

            Whether Microsoft/Google/Yahoo or others encrypt or not, run their data on public/private links the NSA can find its way in. These guys are not stupid (except in one area...hence Snowden) they will find a way in.
            The attack snuck up on everybody and the battle is over...get used to the new age, that being 1984
    • Same here

      I would like to see proof of your statement and not some linux/apple fanboy declaration for trolling purposes.
      Nick Zamparello
    • No, it's not going to help because the NSA will

      simply order these companies to provide the private key to the encryption. Some day people like the author will realize that governments have the power, not corporations.
      • Huh?

        Not corporations?

        Well, you're a good corporate guy, anyway.
        • Name me one compulsory thing a corporation

          can do to you. And if there is ANY government involvement in said item, you lose, because it is the GOVERNMENT doing it, and not the corporation.
  • It also doesn't matter when the NSA has an office inside the server rooms..

    Doesn't matter what encryption between systems do.
    • Where is the proof

      That the NSA has an office in Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Microsoft?
      • I suspect he's being metaphorical to illustrate

        the fact that getting around the encryption is as simple as a court ordering the company to turn over the encryption key.
        • It is also based on the fact that the NSA did have an office

          inside the AT&T backbone network center where none of the AT&T employees were allowed to go.
  • The instant

    it was even suspected that ANYONE was doing this, ALL communications that left a "box" should have been encrypted.
    • It should always have been done.

      Anyone that has the capability to tap into a line and wants to could locate and tap into a line out in the middle of nowhere (between DCs in different cities).
    • And it wouldn't have mattered a jot because the courts

      would simply have ordered the company to turn over the encryption key. Cell phone calls have been encrypted for years. Didn't make a difference. And it won't with this. Because the government always gets what it wants.
  • BlackBerry

    has been encrypting all of their traffic for years. It's the only phone authorized for Top Secret by NATO.
    • Proof?

      Let's make sure we aren't just making up stories out of thin air to support a platform that is now a commercial failure.
      • Look it up.

        Yeah, you.