by Gareth Halfacree
19 November 2009
With Microsoft working
closely with the NSA,
Windows 7 should prove the
'most secure' version of the OS yet.
A lot may be said about Windows 7 being the most
secure version of Microsoft's operating system yet, but you might not be
aware that this is the result of a partnership with the National Security
As reported over on the NPR News Blog - via Maximum PC -
- the secretive security organization which often finds itself the subject
of spy thrillers and conspiracy theories alike - has coughed to its work
Microsoft which saw the NSA,
"leverag[ing] our unique expertise and
operational knowledge of system threats and vulnerabilities to enhance
Microsoft's operating system security guide without constraining the
user's ability to perform their everyday tasks," according to Richard
Schaeffer, the NSA's information assurance director.
Although this isn't the first time the NSA has
poked around at an operating system in order to improve security for all -
the organization is also responsible for the Security Enhanced Linux
system which finds use in most modern distributions - but this marks the one
of the first times that its Information Assurance division has had the
chance to do so,
"in coordination with the product release,
not months or years later in the product cycle."
This partnership with Microsoft isn't new - the
NSA also 'helped out' with 'security functionality' for Vista and XP, and
works with other vendors including Apple and RedHat to keep their systems
safe - but demonstrates the importance of security to a modern operating
system, to the point where an organization tasked with keeping a nation safe
will voluntarily get involved.
Of course, while improved security is always a good thing, there will be
those who see the partnership as a problem:
with one of the NSA's remits being to
monitor electronic communications, it's easy to get carried away with
theories of backdoors hidden in the system and deliberate holes
punched in cryptography implementations.
Whether the public admission of the NSA's hand
in Windows 7's development will help or hinder sales of the OS remains to be
Are you pleased to see the NSA taking a proactive approach to protecting the
US's electronic infrastructure, or does it have you reaching for the tinfoil
hat while wishing the spooks would keep their hands off your OS?