Wikileaks/Cablegate Reveals That Microsoft Gave Windows Source Code to TOPSEC, Which Trains and Employs Chinese Cyberspies
Summary: Microsoft equips private companies — not just governments — with just what they need to intrude all Windows-running computers, namely a key to potential remote access without liability
NOT just incompetence and negligence [1, 2, 3] are the cause of Microsoft’s security problems. Based on Cablegate leaks, it is possible that Microsoft’s secret (and poorly audited) code is exploited so often in China because Microsoft gives them access to this source code (which security researchers in the West cannot see and scrutinise prior to release in binary form).
Several days ago we showed some Egypt cables (prior to Wikileaks being targeted by censors) and it helped show just how closely Microsoft works with governments on ‘security’. The Guardian noticed this independently from us and highlighted the following block (filed under “US embassy cables: China uses access to Microsoft source code to help plot cyber warfare, US fears”):
56. (S//NF) CTAD comment: Additionally, CNITSEC enterprises has recruited Chinese hackers in support of nationally-funded “network attack scientific research projects.” From June 2002 to March 2003, TOPSEC employed a known Chinese hacker, Lin Yong (a.k.a. Lion and owner of the Honker Union of China), as senior security service engineer to manage security service and training. Venus Tech, another CNITSEC enterprise privy to the GSP, is also known to affiliate with XFocus, one of the few Chinese hacker groups known to develop exploits to new vulnerabilities in a short period of time, as evidenced in the 2003 release of Blaster Worm (See CTAD Daily Read File (DRF) April 4, 2008). 57. (S//NF) CTAD comment: While links between top Chinese companies and the PRC are not uncommon, it illustrates the PRC’s use of its “private sector” in support of governmental information warfare objectives, especially in its ability to gather, process, and exploit information. As evidenced with TOPSEC, there is a strong possibility the PRC is harvesting the talents of its private sector in order to bolster offensive and defensive computer network operations capabilities. (Appendix sources 51-52)
So, not just governments are getting access to source code. The “agreement with Microsoft… allowed select companies such as TOPSEC access to MICROSOFT source code in order to secure the Windows platform.” Here it is in raw form. “TOPSEC that trains most of china cyberspys,” Oiaohm quotes from it. “It’s in that cable,” he says. He then gives another direct quote from the cable: “TOPSEC provides services and training for the PLA and has recruited hackers in the past.” On this one he remarks: “Then latter on in the cable to says they have been granted access to MS source code.” The remainder can be read in our latest IRC logs, which make operation of this Web site entirely transparent, unlike governments. “Security by obscurity is that you don’t give the source code to the people attacking your system,” Oiaohm adds and “[i]If you are not using Security by obscurity you might as well publish the source code for everyone to see… At least then you have a better chance that truful ones will tell you where the flaws are.” (typos corrected)
“Proper obscurity can be done with open source”
–OiaohmHe continues: “that cable is a security research document in what the hell has gone wrong… That the USA was being breached so much… Also if you dig deeper the USA side is doing the same thing… Both are trying to use closed source to give them a cyberadvantage while both have access to the source code… Proper obscurity can be done with open source… Each system must be able to have many different combinations in its security system to attacker is not quite sure what he will be walking into… So attacks take longer to develop… MS Windows where most installs have basically the same security config… Basically have a obscurity level of nothing.”
Another cable speaks of an “invitation for a private meeting with a named DoS employee. The attached Microsoft Word document was a malicious”. Microsoft is mostly mentioned negatively (for security reasons) in Cablegate, at least thus far. What will be revealed in the remaining 99% of Cablegate (the part which has not been published yet)?
In actual security news (not leaks of old confidential reports), Vista 7 is being bricked by software which claims to improve Windows security:
THOSE WHO ARE RUNNING 64-bit Windows 7 systems should not download the update for AVG Technologies’ AV software.
AVG has withdrawn the update after complaints that the update completely bricked systems by forcing computers to go into an infinite crash loop.
Users of GNU/Linux and BSD never have such problems. Why won’t the US government encourage adoption of Free software, whose transparency makes it secure? It’s the same fallacy about secrecy which toppled both Windows security and now the US government. It arguably censors Wikileaks more zealously than other governments. █