Shaken, Not Stirred

If you wanted to test the security of your headquarters housed in a volcanic crater on a remote island, who better to check it out than James Bond? Microsoft apparently used similar logic to validate and test the security measures built in to the new Vista operating system. According to a report at the Washington Post, Microsoft called in the NSA. Tony W. Sager, the NSA’s chief of vulnerability analysis and operations group, is quoted as saying “Our intention is to help everyone with security.”

Both Microsoft and the NSA are a little hush-hush about the specifics of the help (spy organizations tend to work that way), but the article describes how the NSA used one group to be the ‘bad guys’ trying to break in and the other group acted as the ‘security administrators’ to protect the Vista network. The effort seems to be a win-win. Microsoft gets a product that has been run through the gauntlet and should be stronger and more secure as a result. The NSA gets an intimate look at the inner-workings of Vista and its security measures so that they can get a head start on developing ways to covertly penetrate or monitor the ‘bad guys’ (assuming Bush hasn’t already issued an un-Constitutional directive that they go ahead and just plant keystroke logging software on every computer in the United States…just in case).

In the end, everyone (except the bad guys) has a vested interest in ensuring Vista is secure. It will be used by hundreds of millions of home, corporate and government organization users. By virtue of its market share, a weak Windows operating system can adversely impact the economy, as companies and individuals spend time and money to clean up and repair compromised systems, or even national security, as the Windows operating system could provide an attack vector to affect the critical infrastructure of the country. Vista is by no means impervious to attack, but we shall see as time unfolds whether the NSA’s involvement has helped to make Vista a more secure operating system.

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