mailing list archives
Microsot DID DISCLOSE potential Backdoor
From: "J. Oquendo" <sil () infiltrated net>
Date: Sat, 3 May 2008 22:45:41 -0500
While you were sleeping and focusing on COFEE...
Microsoft Discloses Government Backdoor on Windows Operating Systems
Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 @ 6:00 am | Privacy, News
Microsoft may have inadvertently disclosed a potential Microsoft backdoor for law
enforcement earlier this week. To explain this all, here is the layman term of a backdoor
A backdoor in a computer system (or cryptosystem or algorithm) is a method of
bypassing normal authentication, securing remote access to a computer, obtaining access
to plaintext, and so on, while attempting to remain undetected. The backdoor may take
the form of an installed program (e.g., Back Orifice), or could be a modification to an
existing program or hardware device.
According to an article on PC World: "The software vendor is giving law enforcers
access to a special tool that keeps tabs on botnets, using data compiled from the 450
million computer users who have installed the Malicious Software Removal tool that
ships with Windows."
Not a big deal until you keep reading: "Although Microsoft is reluctant to give out details
on its botnet buster - the company said that even revealing its name could give cyber
criminals a clue on how to thwart it"
Stop the press for second or two and look at this logically: "users who have installed the
Malicious Software Removal tool" followed by " Microsoft is reluctant to give out details
on its botnet buster - the company said that even revealing its name could give cyber
criminals a clue on how to thwart it", what? This is perhaps the biggest gaffe I've read
thus far on potential government collusion with Microsoft.
We then have the following wording: "Microsoft had not previously talked about its
botnet tool, but it turns out that it was used by police in Canada to make a high-profile
bust earlier this year." So again, thinking logically at what has been said so far by
Microsoft; "We have a tool called Malicious Software Removal tool...", "we can't tell
you the name of this tool since it would undermine our snooping...", "it's been used by
law enforcement already to make a high-profile bust earlier this year."
Remember a "Malicious Software Reporting Tool" is a lot different from a "Malicious
Software Removal Tool". Understanding networking, computing, botnets, let's put this
concept into a working model to explain how this is nothing more than a backdoor. You
have an end user, we'll create a random Windows XP user: Farmer John in North Dakota.
Farmer John in North Dakota uses his machine once a week to read news, send family
email, nothing more. He installed Microsoft's Malicious Removal Tool. Farmer John's
machine becomes infected at some point and sends Microsoft information about the
compromise: "I'm Farmer John's machine coming from X_IP_Address".
A correlation is done with this information and then supposedly used to track where the
botnet's originating IP address is from. From the article: "Analysis by Microsoft's
software allowed investigators to identify which IP address was being used to operate the
botnet, Gaudreau said. And that cracked the case." This is not difficult, detect a DST
(destination) for malware sent from Farmer John's machine. Simple, good guys win,
everyone is happy.
The concept of Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal tool not being a backdoor is
flawed. For starters, no information is ever disclosed to someone installing the Windows
Malicious Software removal tool: "Windows will now install a program which will report
suspicious activity to Microsoft". As far as I can recall on any Windows update, there has
never been any mention of it.
"But this is a wonderful tool, why are you being such a troll and knocking Microsoft for
doing the right thing!". The question slash qualm I have about this tool is I'd like to know
what, why, when and how things are being done on my machine. It's not a matter of
condemning Microsoft, but what happens if at some point in time Microsoft along with
government get an insane idea to branch away from obtaining other data for whatever
intents and purposes?
We've seen how the NSA is allowed to gather any kind of information they'd like (http://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying),
we now have to contend with Microsoft attempting to do the same. Any way you'd like to
market this, it reeks of a backdoor: (again pointing to the definition) A backdoor in a
computer system ... is a method of bypassing normal authentication, ... obtaining access
to ... , and so on, while attempting to remain undetected. There's no beating around the
bush here on what this tool is and does.
This is reminiscent of the 90's with the NSA's ECHELON program. In 1994, the NSA
intercepted the faxes and telephone calls of Airbus. What resulted was the information
was then forwarded to Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas in which they snagged the
contract from under Airbus' feet. In 1996, the CIA hacked into the computers of the
Japanese Trade Ministry seeking "negotiations on import quotas for US cars on the
Japanese market". Resulting with the information being passed off to "US negotiator
Mickey Kantor" who accepted a lower offer.
As an American you might say "so what, more power to us" but to think that any
government wouldn't do it to its own citizens for whatever reason would be absurd.
There are a lot of horrible routes this could take.
What happens if slash when for some reason or another the government decides that you
should not read a news site, will Microsoft willingly oblige and rewrite the news in
accordance to what the government deems readable?
How about the potential to give Microsoft a warrantless order to discover who doesn't
like a President's "health care plan", or who is irrate and whatever policy; Will Microsoft
sift through a machine to retrieve relevant data to disclose to authorities?
That doesn't include the potential for say technological espionage and gouging of sorts.
What's to stop Microsoft from say, mapping a network and reporting all "non-Microsoft"
based products back to Microsoft. The information could then be used to say raise
support costs, allow Microsoft to offer juicier incentives to rid the network of non MS
based products, the scenarios are endless.
Sadly, most people will shrug and pass it off as nothing. Most security buffs, experts, etc.,
haven't mentioned a word of it outside of "the wonderful method to remove, detect,
botnets!" and I don't necessarily disagree it's a unique way to detect what is happening,
but this could have been done at the ISP and NSP level without installing a backdoor.
Why didn't law enforcement approach botnets from that avenue? Perhaps they have, this
I'm actually certain of which leads me to believe this is a prelude of something more
secretive that has yet to be disclosed or discovered.
http://cryptome.org/echelon-ep-fin.htm (ECHELON MISHAPS)
More on Microsoft's *Potential* Government Backdoor
Thursday, May 1st, 2008 @ 7:21 am | Privacy, News
After reading through Microsoft's comments repeatedly yesterday, I cannot come to the
conclusion that Microsoft's "Malware Removal Tool" is not some form of backdoor.
Their comments in the initial article are extremely disturbing and anyone using a
Microsoft product should now be extremely weary about downloading new updates if
even deciding to continue using Microsoft at all.
So let's take a look at the top botnets. Srizbi, Bobax, Rustock, Cutwail, Ozdok, Nucrypt,
Wopla, Spamthru, Storm, Grum, Onewordsub; These are the top as reported by Secure
Guess what, eight out of eleven are all encrypted. Not that big of a deal until you decipher
what Microsoft stated in their original quotes in correlation to some facts.
From the article: Microsoft security experts analyze samples of malicious code to capture
a snapshot of what is happening on the botnet network, which can then be used by law
enforcers, Cranton said. "They can actually get into the software code and say, .Here's
information on how it's being controlled.'"
Perhaps Microsoft could clarify how exactly are they doing what they do, more
importantly, what information is being sent over the wire and to whom. Are they now
breaking code as well. Did the botnet authors go through the steps of encrypting code. We
know for a fact that traffic being sent from a compromised host to a controller is
encrypted, so what is Microsoft analyzing. What COULDN'T Microsoft have gained
from getting code for analysis say by working along with Symantec or someone else.
Now before you shoot off an answer like "the code doofus, they're analyzing the code!",
think about it again. If they're in it to analyze solely the code, they could have worked
with AntiVirus vendors for samples as opposed to putting a tool on your machine which
collects YOUR DATA and sends it off to who knows where. A law enforcement agency,
or team Microsoft.
I'll pause on this for now. How about the validity in stating: "Botnet Operator tracked via
IP". How legitimate is this argument given the fact (not presumption) that IP is a horrible
identifier. Let's put this in a practical example. Farmer Joe in Nebraska is using a DSL
connection that it always on. He uses Windows XP and doesn't know what a Windows
Update is so he's never used it. His computer is compromised, a botnet controller is
installed and attacks are launched from Nebraska. The attacker sanitized Farmer Joe's
machine to erase his tracks using multiple wipes with perhaps PGP. The end.
For any business or law enforcement agency to claim they can track down via an IP
address, perhaps they've skimmed on the fact that there are far too many open WiFi
hotspots in the world to conclusively narrow a fact. We have an assumption that an
attacker is behind 10.10.10.159. Can we see them? No. All we know is the address. Being
I've used a private address, I won't bother diving into "but he came from ISP X in
Nebraska." Irrelevant. What you have is a fishing expedition.
For more on this false sense of ID-via-IP: Well, let me ask you you think 22.214.171.124
is. I'll give you a hint; at this instant, there are 72 of us.
Here's another question. Whom would you suspect 126.96.36.199 is? At this point in
time, I am in Barcelona; if I were home, that would be my address as you would see it,
but my address as I would see it would be in 10.32.244.216/29. There might be several
hundred people you would see using 188.8.131.52;
I implore you to read a NANOG thread http://readlist.com/lists/trapdoor.merit.edu/nanog/6/33246.html
Professionals know, IP is an inaccurate identifier so why does it seem that Microsoft
along with LEO are relying on this. Makes a great baseline sure, but is certainly ripe
Again, please understand what I am stating, this is "not to say that its a horrible idea", its
a start, a baseline - but not a definitive measure of determining who is controlling a bot,
who created the botnet, etc.
Looking at past history, unfortunately you have the tinkerers; so what happens to an up-
and-coming "security" buff who is getting into the field and stumbles upon a botnet. Sure
he was moronic to join an irc channel filled with bots, sure he was idiotic in downloading
the code for the sake of learning. Fact is he might have. Guess what will happen to him
when a Law Enforcement Agency raids his house? Guess what will happen when that
agency needs funding for a new uber Cyber(buzzword)Crime fighting department. You
guessed it. Hey "Up-and-coming security buff..." Kiss your terminal goodbye, and from
here on out, your dreams of becoming the next Bruce Schneier will be close to non-
existent. It happens.
Anyhow, re-emphasizing... Shame on Microsoft for forwarding your data without telling
you. Shame on Microsoft for not asking you if you wanted to "PARTICIPATE" in
sending data. Shame on Microsoft for not explicitly stating: The data we are sneaking off
your computer will be sent to government agencies of our choice. Its a horrible practice
and a damaging breach of trust. Their action worries me as a security professional, will
they ever scour for data for profit. Why not, no one would notice or care anyway.
sil @ infiltrated dot net
SGFA #579 (FW+VPN v4.1)
SGFE #574 (FW+VPN v4.1)
wget -qO - www.infiltrated.net/sig|perl
- Microsot DID DISCLOSE potential Backdoor J. Oquendo (May 05)