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Old 01-12-2006, 11:24 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default NSA Threat in Windows

Taken from another thread as I think it's more usefull here but I doubt this is true myself.



Subject: Fwd: NSA backdoor into windows. A good reason to run Linux or Mac
Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2002 11:57:04 -0500


How NSA access was built into Windows
Duncan Campbell 04.09.1999

Careless mistake reveals subversion of Windows by NSA.

A CARELESS mistake by Microsoft programmers has revealed that
special access codes prepared by the US National Security Agency
have been secretly built into Windows. The NSA access system is
built into every version of the Windows operating system now in
use, except early releases of Windows 95 (and its predecessors).
The discovery comes close on the heels of the revelations
earlier this year that another US software giant, Lotus, had
built an NSA "help information" trapdoor into its Notes system,
and that security functions on other software systems had been
deliberately crippled.

The first discovery of the new NSA access system was made two
years ago by British researcher Dr Nicko van Someren. But it was
only a few weeks ago when a second researcher rediscovered the
access system. With it, he found the evidence linking it to NSA.

Computer security specialists have been aware for two years that
unusual features are contained inside a standard Windows
software "driver" used for security and encryption functions.
The driver, called ADVAPI.DLL, enables and controls a range of
security functions. If you use Windows, you will find it in the
C:\Windows\system directory of your computer.

ADVAPI.DLL works closely with Microsoft Internet Explorer, but
will only run crypographic functions that the US governments
allows Microsoft to export. That information is bad enough news,
from a European point of view. Now, it turns out that ADVAPI
will run special programmes inserted and controlled by NSA. As
yet, no one knows what these programmes are, or what they do.
Dr Nicko van Someren reported at last year's Crypto 98
conference that he had disassembled the ADVADPI driver. He found
it contained two different keys. One was used by Microsoft to
control the cryptographic functions enabled in Windows, in
compliance with US export regulations. But the reason for
building in a second key, or who owned it, remained a mystery.

A second key

Two weeks ago, a US security company came up with conclusive
evidence that the second key belongs to NSA. Like Dr van
Someren, Andrew Fernandez, chief scientist with Cryptonym of
Morrisville, North Carolina, had been probing the presence and
significance of the two keys. Then he checked the latest Service
Pack release for Windows NT4, Service Pack 5. He found that
Microsoft's developers had failed to remove or "strip" the
debugging symbols used to test this software before they
released it. Inside the code were the labels for the two keys.
One was called "KEY". The other was called "NSAKEY".

Fernandes reported his re-discovery of the two CAPI keys, and
theirsecret meaning, to "Advances in Cryptology, Crypto'99"
conference held in Santa Barbara. According to those present at
the conference, Windows developers attending the conference did
not deny that the "NSA" key was built into their software. But
they refused to talk about what the key did, or why it had been
put there without users' knowledge.

A third key?!

But according to two witnesses attending the conference, even
Microsoft's top crypto programmers were astonished to learn that
the version of ADVAPI.DLL shipping with Windows 2000 contains
not two, but three keys. Brian LaMachia, head of CAPI
development at Microsoft was "stunned" to learn of these
discoveries, by outsiders. The latest discovery by Dr van
Someren is based on advanced search methods which test and
report on the "entropy" of programming code.

Within the Microsoft organisation, access to Windows source code
is said to be highly compartmentalized, making it easy for
modifications to be inserted without the knowledge of even the
respective product managers.

Researchers are divided about whether the NSA key could be
intended to let US government users of Windows run classified
crypto systems on their machines or whether it is intended to
open up anyone's and everyone's Windows computer to intelligence
gathering techniques deployed by NSA's burgeoning corps of
"information warriors".

According to Fernandez of Cryptonym, the result of having the
secret key inside your Windows operating system "is that it is
tremendously easier for the NSA to load unauthorized security
services on all copies of Microsoft Windows, and once these
security services are loaded, they can effectively compromise
your entire operating system". The NSA key is contained inside
all versions of Windows from Windows 95 OSR2 onwards.

"For non American IT managers relying on Windows NT to operate
highly secure data centres, this find is worrying", he added.
"The US government is currently making it as difficult as
possible for "strong" crypto to be used outside of the US. That
they have also installed a cryptographic back door in the
world's most abundant operating system should send a strong
message to foreign IT managers".

"How is an IT manager to feel when they learn that in every copy
of Windows sold, Microsoft has a 'back door' for NSA - making it
orders of magnitude easier for the US government to access your
computer?" he asked.

Can the loophole be turned round against the snoopers?

Dr van Someren feels that the primary purpose of the NSA key
inside Windows may be for legitimate US government use. But he
says that there cannot be a legitimate explanation for the third
key in Windows 2000 CAPI. "It looks more fishy", he said.
Fernandez believes that NSA's built in loophole can be turned
round against the snoopers. The NSA key inside CAPI can be
replaced by your own key, and used to sign cryptographic
security modules from overseas or unauthorised third parties,
unapproved by Microsoft or the NSA. This is exactly what the US
government has been trying to prevent. A demonstration "how to
do it" program that replaces the NSA key can be found on
Cryptonym's website.

According to one leading US cryptographer, the IT world should
be thankful that the subversion of Windows by NSA has come to
light before the arrival of CPUs that handles encrypted
instruction sets. These would make the type of discoveries made
this month impossible. "Had the next generation CPU's with
encrypted instruction sets already been deployed,we would have
never found out about NSAKEY."
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Old 01-15-2006, 07:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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shameless bump
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Old 01-16-2006, 01:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Creepy, no?
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