Microsoft Slams US Government as ‘persistent threat’ to Customer Security

Discussion in 'Surface Forum Site News' started by dgstorm, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. dgstorm

    dgstorm Editor in Chief Staff Member

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    It seems that Microsoft isn't fooling around anymore and is fed up with the NSA. Microsoft just joined Google and Yahoo in beefing up security against the U.S. National Security Agency. The Redmond based company just went into overdrive to increase end-to-end encryption for its data center Internet traffic after finding out that the NSA can now hack into major tech companies’ data centers.

    Microsoft has taken things a step further by publicly calling out the U.S. Government and categorizing them as an “advanced persistent threat” to its customers’ security. This is the same designation Microsoft normally uses only “for foreign state-sponsored cyber terrorists.”

    It's truly frightening and sad when our own government is lumped in with organizations/countries like Iran, Al Qaida and The Taliban.

    Source: BGR
     
  2. macmee

    macmee Active Member

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    As they should. Microsoft's reputation has been damaged here.

    Edit: also don't feel sad or frightening about your Government being lumped in with organizations/countries like Iran, Al Qaida and The Taliban. People have been lumping your Government with these groups for years (that's not to say I do)!
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2013
  3. oion

    oion Well-Known Member

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    How is Microsoft's dealings regarding the NSA any different than Google or Facebook or Apple? Or cellular providers? Or ISPs? Thinking the whole NSA-reputation thing is only MS' problem is naive at best.

    Just accept that any communication over unencrypted transmission lines is compromised and you're golden. LOL

    Ultimately, there are three sides to this that lead to a very amusing conclusion: On one hand, NSA impingement is a natural development from what happened to the U.S. on 9/11 and since. On the other hand, corporations will pin the "bad guy" badge on the government for public relations purposes. And the American consumers, being rather stupid and raised under the historical pennant of rebellion*, sociologically ally with the companies against Teh Ebil Government.

    The conclusion that thus amuses me to no end is that consumers, being stupid, freely and happily give away their information for commercial purposes. Like Facebook putting you in ads. But people still put up with that, why? Because consumers would rather freely and even unknowingly give their information to be sold than allow any government agency to try to track terrorist activity.

    *Non-Americans must realize that the United States was built upon the concepts of rebellion against government (the Brits). That's the historical backdrop taught to every single school child; on top of that, a significant segment of the country is still bitter against the federal government because they lost a civil war 150 years ago (I shit you not). But above all, the biggest federal-level right in the United States is the First Amendment. How many other countries have that much freedom for political views and religion, especially during that time period? I don't believe non-Americans and even most Americans realize how incredibly diverse the population is in terms of subcultures and sociopolitical views.

    How I see this whole thing--the private companies are going to mess with your online activities and track you for commercial purposes and sell your information anyway, so the recent moves are primarily for public relations to the consumer. And a great side effect is that more user data is being encrypted thanks to that, so maybe we won't see another retarded Adobe cloud hack with slightly encrypted passwords. Another point that's lost in all of this is that consumers, being stupid, are continually demanding more and more stuff free--but "free" always has a price, especially for the providers involved. But the government? I respect the NSA's mission, ultimately, and I see these large press releases used in the corporate sector as just another kind of fearmongering, which is terribly ironic. Because First Amendment, srsly WTF. To compare the NSA to the likes of Taliban, which kills girls because they don't believe females should be educated, is idiocy of the highest order.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2013
  4. macmee

    macmee Active Member

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    This issue royally angers me for the sole reason that your President has defended these spying programs by saying that "legally we can only spy on foreigners, and so that's what we do". As a Canadian that makes me mad because America's justification for spying is that it's okay to spy on me because I'm not American, but not on you because you are American. That's literally what Obama stood there and tried to sell to the American people and it makes me mad to no end. And before you try to sell to me that I'm not the kind of foreigner that they'd be interested in spying on, their tracking systems are all automated. They collect everything and decide how to filter it later. If I am to believe Obama then you're immune to such collection, but my emails and online footprint are sitting exposed to your Government, all other Canadian data is sitting pretty to be poked at by your Government, and it pisses me off.

    I think your Government was foolish to defend the spying in this way because they've alienated non-Americans from their economy to some extent. If I could use a version of Facebook or GMail who's datacenters were stored in Europe instead of the US then I would, so would almost all of my friends, family and many other non-Americans. Microsoft understands the stupidity of your Government and is acting in a way to correct this alienation that they've put forth to non-Americans. And I have no doubt that even if the services I used were hosted in Europe, my data would still be collected, it's just that no European Government has come out and said "our spying program is justified because we only spy on non-Europeans like Canadians". I don't think I'll ever get over how profoundly and epically stupid it was to defend the NSA program in this way.

    To be somewhat rude here, the US is not the center of the universe, which I think a lot of Americans seem to forget from time to time. Clearly the US is a big market for Microsoft but Microsoft also has to protect its interests elsewhere. The US Government has successfully managed to piss off millions of people with the NSA issue and millions of those people happen to be Microsoft, Google, Apple and Facebook customers. Whether or not the NSA issue is as bad as people believe, the media are making it out to be a disaster. These companies have no choice but to do damage control at this point.

    And I only live in Canada, which typically gets alone great with the US (I'm pretty sure the Canadian Government takes part in half these NSA programs along with your Government). So the distrust here for the US Government probably isn't nearly as bad as it is in other markets like Asia or Europe. Just look at all the fuss the Germans have made over American spying. The Germans track people too, but its economically beneficial to them to make you and your tech companies look as bad as possible.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2013
  5. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    Totally off-topic, but I had to point this out:

    Non-Americans don't really care what principles the US was built on. They only care about how and in what way Pax Americana is thrashing about currently.

    Further, America is not the only socially and economically diverse nation-state on this planet. They are a number of other nation-states which are incredibly complex - much more so that America. But then again, one hardly expects even the better educated Americans to know this or appreciate it, for as macmee astutely points out, Americans - at least most of them - have this (mis)perception that their country is the center of the universe (here also echoing macmee's sentiments - not wishing to be rude).

    One other point: The activities of the NSA that were recently unearthed were not a "natural development from what happened to the U.S. on 9/11". Its activities started much before that - some claim since the late 1970s when the original idea of a recon-strike-complex was thought up. What 9/11 did was to give that program an sense of immediate relevance. Such "black programs" of surveillance, of course, are not the preserve of the Americans or of the NSA. Indeed, all governments and their agencies try to do this kind of stuff. But the Americans have the technology, the money and the geopolitical clout at the moment to do this better than most, if not all.

    @macmee: I am not sure why you have a problem with the Americans instituting a global surveillance program. While this kind of stuff is deeply unsettling, however, a realist view of geopolitics (I use 'realist' here as a technical term) suggests that all nation-states given the resources would attempt to control and dominate the global strategic commons. And, the NSA and its programs, among others, are one of the instruments to do so. Other nation-states do the same thing - or at least try to. But they usually lack the resources and the global reach that the Americans do. Is this a desirable state of affairs? Certainly not! And, if anything, in the so-called Age of Information, things are going to get worse or we will come to accept this state of affairs as a part of our daily life.
     
  6. oion

    oion Well-Known Member

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    Without knowing how history shapes the more stable elements of a culture, any judgment is going to be missing key elements for potential change.

    This is called "missing the point." I wasn't talking about Macmee's unknown grievances about a particular Obama speech but speaking broadly to the stated comparison to the Taliban and whatnot, because the general assumption for these American companies is indeed their effects on users in our borders: I set up my argument for diversity based on the concept of the First Amendment, which was ratified in 1791--what other countries were built on that sentiment from the ground up? (I'm asking honestly since I don't know of any.) And then the reason why I brought up the First Amendment, since you missed the point, is that one of the main fears concerning Big Brother is a chilling effect across society for both religious freedom and political speech; considering how deeply entrenched the First Amendment is, that's not realistic.

    Since Macmee had a particular grievance to an Obama speech he didn't rage about until later, that's another issue entirely; and really, all governments are going to do that with differences in scale, and they're going to use the information in different ways (from political posturing, to corporate espionage like Canada did to Brazil, to finding actual terrorist threats). The admission was an error--I'm not saying people shouldn't know about it, just that in the grand scheme of things in global chess, other countries with far more horrible human rights issues will just continue to spy on everything while the debate and efforts to the UN to stop US sniffing continue to fester. I also don't take political speeches seriously; the fact is, the NSA can't realistically separate U.S. nationals from foreigners in their data sweeps, especially when U.S. citizens also live abroad. You'd better believe Americans are still being sniffed out.

    I don't actually feel strongly about the matter because corporations can and should be encrypting everything anyway, so this is actually a fun push in that direction.

    The back-history is good point; who knows what the Cold War and stuff helped cook up. For the public perception, however, the best current use is for terrorist activity, but it's hardly on the same level as the Taliban/etc. I'm sure the KGB still exists in one form or another.

    But only fools think the U.S. is the biggest threat in international espionage right now. :p That would be Communist China. And guess which has one of the worst human rights records, not even discussing their professional digital corporate espionage groups? (Hint: Human rights don't include "digital privacy.")

    How many of the millions of "pissed off" people using all those aggregate services from MS to Apple to Google to FB actually quit, though? I mean scrubbed their accounts. Answer: Not enough to make any difference, ultimately.

    That's why I take an amused neutral view about this; we're all just data points anyway, and your choice now is to be sold for profit or being spied upon by governments. Realistically, you either use end-to-end encryption or accept that those are your choices in the current digital age and live with it... by adapting habits to evolve with privacy policies, like removing all your photos from Facebook, or buying your own domain from a country-specific host and getting your email that way, maybe setting up your client for full encryption. Don't use Google or Bing or Yahoo or any other public search venue. Or go offline.

    On the governmental scale, everyone is spying on everyone else anyway, so it's kind of a wash. This is the modern-day arms race, and it will never end. The only difference I see here is that the NSA was caught/admitted/exposed. And meanwhile, there is China.
     
  7. kristalsoldier

    kristalsoldier Well-Known Member

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    @Oion...while I would like to extend this discussion with you by responding to your post - especially regarding your representation of the American 1st Ammendment, global surveillance platforms, the threat of China and life in the Age of Networks - I'm afraid this thread is not the best of places to do so.
     
  8. macmee

    macmee Active Member

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    No, you completely missed my point. Obama isn't the only one to justify the NSA on the grounds that they only spy on foreigners. The NSA director also did this, and in virtually every discussion brought up, Americans are only concerned about domestic spying and tooting around the amendments as you have even done yourself. This wasn't some isolated blunder made by a mediocre President, it's the entire defense your Government uses when talking about the NSA.

    And regarding you bringing up the amendments: I don't care. I'm not American and amendments do nothing for me. It's stupid when folks bring up the amendments with regards to this issue because your amendments aren't ever going to stop your Government from snooping, and my charter of rights won't stop my Government from helping them to snoop.

    Also, If Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Apple weren't hurt by what'd happened, why do you think they've adopted a strong defensive? They know how toxic it can be if consumers lose trust in them.
     

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