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Re: Steve Gibson smokes crack?
From: bkfsec <bkfsec () sdf lonestar org>
Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2006 16:57:36 -0500

Jason Coombs wrote:


The Microsoft corporate entity may not be malicious in terms of purposefully planting backdoors with knowledge and consent of Gates et al (this assertion is of course questionable) however, individual programmers at Microsoft have probably planted backdoors on purpose. This happens frequently in many software shops.

Oh I'm quite certain that it happens...

The corporate culture at Microsoft made it easy to do so, and get away with it, as you so accurately described. Individual product managers who encouraged the least safe configurations and least safe feature/code designs might have done so for the purpose of preserving widespread access to such backdoors.

Perhaps... it's really tough to tell the difference. My assertion would be that it can be difficult to tell the difference between an accidental bug, a design flaw, and an intentionally planted bug. Of course, that would depend on the bug and any evidence in the code regarding the bug, but unless there's something that says "My exploit here", as sort of happened with the NSA backdoor fiasco, it still might be difficult to prove. Even then, we still don't know that that was an NSA backdoor beyond a shadow of a doubt. There are worms out there with copyright notices listing the government of China. Did China actually create the worm? Why would it put a copyright notice in the code? More likely that data is there for the purpose of deception. So even comments and symbols aren't 100% trustworthy. (Not the same scenario, but still illustrates that trust is difficult)

I think we need to be careful about making accusations without solid evidence.

I know that you don't like the concept of prosecution without solid evidence. :)

It would be relatively simple for Microsoft to determine whether any particular individuals were responsible for writing the bad code and deploying flawed architectures over and over again through the years.

Assuming they made more than a handful of blatant and patterned holes that had been found. There are ways to circumvent the infrastructure such that they're not obvious. Inserting extra code into an old code tree parser, for instance, so that the native code is trojaned but the source isn't. That's only the first method that comes to mind.

It would depend on the intelligence and planning of the individual.

Perhaps Microsoft has bothered to look into this by now, and has quietly dismissed the perpetrators.

Again, hard to say. Without being personally privy to any information saying as much from a source who can claim to have been there to witness it, I can't even speculate.

Beware of ex-Microsoft programmers.

I would say that this is true for any ex-programmer of any widely used program. Even if they didn't maliciously insert a backdoor, it's still entirely possible for that person to know and understand the weaknesses in the infrastructure. All infrastructures have weaknesses somewhere.

            -bkfsec


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