Windows 8 is a Security Risk, German Government Says

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Anthony Myers avatar

image-windows8security-2013.jpgWindows 8 is a Security Risk, German Government Says

Microsoft has backdoor access to Windows 8 computers, and can make changes to them without user's knowledge, a leaked German government memo reportedly says, and that makes them unacceptable for use in German government activities

Trusted Computing Protocol to Blame

A security system known as Trusted Computing is what allows companies like Microsoft to have secret access to computers, and it was developed as a sort of digital rights management tool. It can detect illegal software, viruses and trojans, but also can be used to gain total control over the host computer, something that cannot be allowed in German government usage, a leaked memo from the German Federal Office for Information Security obtained by German newspaper Die Zeit found.

Other computer manufacturers, and not just Microsoft, have been using the Trusted Computing protocol, but the difference now is the specification governing Trusted Computing has been updated so that users cannot opt in or out. It is turned on by default, and that means users have basically no control over the governed machines, something German security experts apparently don't want to see when running critical infrastructure.

TPM Chip the Key

Trusted Computing is not a new concept, and in fact began 10 years ago as initiated by the Trusted Computing Group. This was a consortium of AMD, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, IBM, HP and Wave Systems, and they created the combined specification and semiconductor core or integrated circuit that make up the Trusted Platform Module.

Learning Opportunities

TPM now has been updated to v2.0, and as it's now turned on by default, it no longer lives up the German government security standards, the leaked memo reported. Authorities from the Federal Office for Information Security, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Federal Administration were stern in their warnings about TPM 2.0 and Windows 8 in the documents dated from 2012.

"Due to the loss of full sovereignty over the information technology, the security objectives of confidentiality and integrity can no longer be guaranteed," Die Zeit reported the memo saying.

If Microsoft really wanted, it could apparently update Windows 8 machines without users knowing, and because Microsoft was named as one of the participants in the PRISM NSA surveillance program, there could remain the possibility of direct government access.