07.28.21

Microsoft ‘Loves’ Linux So Much That It’s Spreading FUD About It All Over the Media for 3 Days in a Row (So Far)

Posted in Deception, FUD, GNU/Linux, Patents, Security at 5:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 9970fa71cb2d3e14bd46feb717c52919

Summary: The stubborn cult at Microsoft likes telling us all — especially officials and decision-makers — a bunch lies like, “we invest [some amount of money] in security” and “security is our goal”, but in reality the money is sunk into hiring (‘buying’) firms with “security” in their name, bribing publishers for mindless PR/platitudes that cast critics of Microsoft insecurity/ies as “fanatics”, “bashers”, “jealous”, “irrational” et cetera; finally, actual money goes into collaborations with the NSA on back doors, i.e. the exact opposite of security. The video above is a follow-up or sequel for something we meme-ified two days ago; we’ve since then included more examples (with editorial comments added to the links) in our News Roundups/Daily Links; Western media follows the same script we saw in Indian Web sites on Sunday and the objective is to paint Linux as “equally insecure” if not less secure than Windows. As already noted on Sunday, in a much longer video, the ‘Linux’ malware (it has nothing to do with Linux itself!) needs user intervention, neglect, or even sabotage to even get on the compromised systems in the first place. One can guess what situation or which incidents Microsoft is ever so eager to distract/deflect from…

07.26.21

[Meme] Microsoft is Lecturing Us on Security!

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Security at 5:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

As expected, during the weekend when it started: No, Microsoft Does Not Get to Lecture Us on GNU/Linux Security (or Security in General) (detailed rebuttal, video)

Microsoft's Linux FUD

Summary: Dev Kundaliya and ‘Hacker’ News play along and go along with this laughable lie that Microsoft is some kind of security expert with moral authority/credibility on this subject

07.25.21

No, Microsoft Does Not Get to Lecture Us on GNU/Linux Security (or Security in General)

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Security at 4:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum b80cf93af3d251781533a79c2ecfb628

Summary: The corporate media wants us to think (or feel) like Microsoft is some kind of security guru; the reality, however, is the exact opposite because at Microsoft sometimes if not always/by default insecurity is the actual objective (back doors)

THE media doesn’t seem to mind facts and truths. It’s all about agenda, irrespective of hard evidence such as NSA leaks [1], empirical evidence [2], warnings from the inside [3], and desperate diversionary tactics [4].

“That’s like George Bush lecturing us on peace.”As just mentioned in our latest Daily Links, a bunch of new puff pieces [5-7] tell us that “Linux” is in trouble, based on Microsoft. The so-called ‘experts’ (from Microsoft) now have the audacity to lecture us on security. That’s like George Bush lecturing us on peace. Or Bill Gates lecturing us in fidelity in a marriage (being faithful). It’s hard to keep a straight face, so we’ve made a video.

Related/contextual links in order of appearance in the video:

  1. Microsoft and the NSA
  2. Is Microsoft a National Security Threat?
  3. IRC log
  4. Microsoft Weaponises (and Further Spreads) Racism to Distract From Its Own Incompetence (and ‘Five Eyes’ Collusion for Back Door Access)
  5. New crypto malware targeting Windows, Linux systems: Microsoft
  6. New crypto malware targeting Windows, Linux systems: Microsoft
  7. “LemonDuck”: New crypto malware targeting Windows, Linux systems

07.20.21

[Meme] And Now Biden is Borrowed by Microsoft to Spread Racism and Deflect From the Real Culprit (Microsoft)…

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Security at 4:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Related: Microsoft Weaponises (and Further Spreads) Racism to Distract From Its Own Incompetence (and ‘Five Eyes’ Collusion for Back Door Access) | Is Microsoft a National Security Threat?

So all the Exchange servers have been cracked due to their severe flaws? It's the fault of CHOIIINA!

Yvonne, we found an IP address in China; Oh, really? Yes, and millions more all around the world

Summary: Microsoft is once again trying to find some whipping boy as clients abandon Exchange for greener (and freer) pastures; in the process Microsoft engages in overt racism, as usual

07.19.21

Is Microsoft a National Security Threat?

Posted in FUD, Microsoft, Security at 5:09 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Mitchel Lewis

Ransom infection vector

Despite entire industries and trade disciplines existing solely to manage Microsoft architecture and mitigate attacks against it, including a partner network consisting of 17 million+ IT professionals, 99% of all ransomware attacks still occur on Windows. Meanwhile, Microsoft architecture, including its cloud services, maintains a monopoly on botnet, brute-force, malware, phishing, virus, and zero-day attacks just the same. From individuals and small businesses to enterprises and government entities with unlimited IT budgets, everyone standardized on seemingly unsecurable Microsoft architecture are being phished, breached, exploited, and ransomed daily with no end to this in sight. Not even Microsoft is safe from this digital blitzkrieg, hence why they tell us to “assume breach”.

This isn’t to say that Linux OSs and macOS don’t see these attacks on their platforms though; they have and will again. Long-term savings and productivity advantages aside, they just don’t garner the same level of attack that Windows does, nor are they as likely to get exploited at the same rate as Windows when they are attacked. Put simply, Mac and Linux have a smaller attack surface and get to treat Windows like an umbrella against attacks due to its prominence in the OS space. Both of which are the two primary reasons why I maintain that the best thing that organizations can do to mitigate these attacks, for now at least, is to migrate away to macOS or a Linux-based operating system such as RedHat, CentOS, Ubuntu, etc.

With the above in mind though and when also accepting that there is no aspect of cyber, economic, environmental, homeland, human, and political security along with the security of our infrastructure and natural resources, national security if you will, that isn’t intricately dependent on Microsoft architecture, this reality alone is more than enough to warrant a discussion on whether or not Microsoft architecture is a consequent threat to national security. So, is Microsoft a threat to national security?


In order to answer this question, we first have to address why Windows and other Microsoft services are being breached so often in the first place. We have to see if they can be faulted for this present state, if there is another causal problem that’s beyond their control, or if anyone with their market share is destined to be a victim of their own success and dominance. And to be fair, not everyone will agree with my assessment above or below.

MalwareTech

For one and in response to a previous article where I suggested migrating to macOS and Linux to mitigate these aforementioned attacks, Michael Gillespie, and Marcus Hutchins (MalwareTech) seem to think that Microsoft architecture is exploited most frequently simply because it is the most prominent architecture and that migrating wouldn’t render you any less vulnerable. Put simply, they seem to think that differing attack surfaces are irrelevant to rates of exploitation and that macOS would be exploited at the same rate as Windows if the tables were turned with respect to market share.

Meanwhile, I’m not denying that that prominence is a factor, at all, I’m just saying that attack surface is on the same footing as prominence and that other solutions with smaller attack surfaces will be attacked and exploited at a lesser rate with the same market share which they disagreed with. However, it is also my stance that Microsoft’s anti-competitive practices aimed at obtaining and maintaining their dominant market share with low-quality products has further exacerbated this issue into what we have before us today; more on this later.

Why this matters to the question of whether or not Microsoft is a national security threat is simple. By suggesting that Microsoft is merely a victim of its own success and that anyone with their market share would see the same rate of exploitation, they’re also absolving Microsoft of responsibility for the present state of threat. But by suggesting that Microsoft’s galactic attack surface is equally responsible with their dominance for their security woes and that Microsoft wouldn’t be in the position they are in now if they had quality products that didn’t have to rely on anti-competitive practices to maintain market share, I’m naturally shouldering Microsoft with their share of the blame in the threat posed to America’s IT infrastructure at present.

One immediate problem with the prominence argument though is that those relying on it seem to resort to it in response to the suggestion of migrating to macOS or RedHat in an effort to mitigate attacks. If you really think about it though, this is irrational and shouldn’t discourage anyone from making the switch. Based on their own logic, Mac and RedHat users would still be much better off than Windows users so long as Windows remains dominant and continues to take all of the flak and function as an attack umbrella.

That said, I’m failing to see how this argument is relevant to their stance, how it invalidates my suggestion, or how it could discourage anyone from migrating to Mac or Linux so long as Windows maintains a dominant market share. If anything, those leveraging this argument seem to be unwittingly reinforcing my suggestion of treating Windows like an umbrella; all of which I’m totally fine with.

Another odd aspect of the prominence argument is that I have yet to see an actual post-mortem or a root cause analysis faulting the dominant market share of Windows as a causal reason for <insert any breach/exploit/ransomware attack here>. In fact, Microsoft doesn’t even take the prominence stance. Instead, their root cause analyses focus on the attack surface, mistakes/oversights, mitigation steps, etc. The anatomy of a breach is never reduced to “They hate us because they ain’t us.” by people who are actually paid to do RCAs for a living as Hutchins and Gillespie suggest; if only it were that simple.

Another major flaw in the prominence fallacy is that those invoking it are unwittingly implying that attack surface has no bearing on rates of exploitation or that the attack surface of each of these platforms is equal; which is bold to say the least. For one and given that attack surface is a function of the overall complexity of their infrastructure, no differently than ownership costs and instability, they might as well be suggesting that all platforms are equally stable with no variance in ownership costs; none of which could be further from the truth.

IBM chart

With Windows generating 3x+ the TCO that MacOS/Linux does, analysts can and do infer this is a reflection of disparity in relative complexity, attack surfaces, and stability because they all come hand in hand. Put simply, if one architecture generates significantly more ownership costs more to maintain over its lifespan than another, it’s rational to assume this is due to it being poorly engineered, consequently overly complex, and unstable; attack surface or otherwise. This is what software engineers refer to as software entropy.

And if they’re going to imply that attack surface doesn’t influence rates of exploitation then the onus is on them to support this stance with data and research. Just as complexity driving cost, instability, and attack surface is fundamental to engineers, so is a ballooning attack surface driving rates of exploitation. This is why engineers treat simplicity like their North Star. That said, great claims that run contrary to fundamentals and conventional wisdom tend to require great amounts of evidence; none of which has been furnished.

On top of lacking a fundamental precedent, yet another oddity of the prominence fallacy is that it lacks historical precedent. It’s important to remember that we’ve only lived in an Information Age with Microsoft at the top. We’ve never lived in a connected world with another OS dominating the market, it’s always been Windows. As such, to say that this would be the case for anyone at the top is a conjecture on its best day.

It’s almost scraping the barrel at this point, but yet another problem with the prominence fallacy is that it ignores how Microsoft obtained its dominant share of the market and why they had to resort to these tactics in the first place. Not only is it Microsoft’s modus operandi to rely on anti-competitive tactics to obtain and maintain a dominant market share, a monopoly if you will, they only have to rely on said tactics because their products couldn’t garner this market share on merit alone.

Natural selection applies to free markets in that the fittest products will naturally dominate a free market. That said, the best architecture would dominate a market naturally and wouldn’t need to resort to anti-competitive practices. And if Microsoft were the best in class, then they wouldn’t need to be optimizing their architecture for lock-in while bullying or buying out their competition at every avenue as they are today. They wouldn’t need to implore their partners to “create stickiness” by entrenching their products to further inflate switching costs.


All said, it’s safe to say that Microsoft is by no means a victim of their own success here so much as they’re a karmatic victim of their own anti-competitive practices and low-rent approach to software engineering; a digital Icarus complex if you will. There is much that Microsoft can do but doesn’t to simplify their products, shrink their attack surface, reduce ownership costs, reduce their rate of infection, and reduce the consequent threat that they present to America and the world. And to say that they aren’t complicit in the security threat that their architecture poses to America borders on the insane. But does the current level of threat that Microsoft poses constitute them as being a national security threat?

Although I’m not an expert in this regard, those that are have a few qualifying questions in order to really answer this question. IE, in order to classify Microsoft as a threat to national security, threat analysts would have to ask if Microsoft’s undue vulnerability and inorganic prominence mentioned above is a critical threat to our cyber, economic, environmental, homeland, human, and political security along with our infrastructure and natural resources.

Even Microsoft would claim that their architecture is detrimental to all of the aforementioned aspects of national security though. And given the extent of Microsoft architecture throughout personal, industrial, and governmental sectors and its rate of exploitation, it’s hard to see how Microsoft doesn’t expose all of these aforementioned categories to undue risk; a threat if you will.

Further, there is nothing to suggest that a platform with a smaller attack surface won’t have a lower rate of exploitation with the same market share while fundamentals and conventional wisdom suggest smaller attack surfaces lead to lower rates of exploitation. And as a consequence of this, it’s probably safe to say that Microsoft and its architecture is indeed a national security threat in comparison to less prominent Linux and Mac alternatives.

And given that ransomware and anti-trust has already been deemed a threat to national security, it’s not much of a stretch, at least in my opinion, to extend this classification to Microsoft when considering their history with anti-trust and monopoly on exploitation. Nor is it a stretch to suggest migrating onto modern platforms rather than crying about it to the competition exploiting weaknesses; no differently than we do with other critical infrastructure. This is why we rely on nuclear subs now instead of wooden ships.

It’s not a coincidence that the same countries exploiting the US as a whole, China and Russia, are the same countries moving to Linux as I’m typing this. It’s not just about cost-savings and productivity for justifying this move though. And mitigating the risk that Microsoft architecture poses to their national security also happens to be a primary motivating force behind their migrations. Maybe they understand something about Microsoft architecture that America is still slow to realize?

I digress, but even if my assessment above is wrong, prominence is all that matters, and Microsoft isn’t a national security threat, individuals and organizations alike are still better off abandoning the Microsoft ecosystem on any scale in favor of more modern alternatives for the foreseeable future. Although Microsoft gets a lot of criticism for the low quality of their products, hence the persistent updates (552 in 2021 thus far) and a revolving door of CVEs, few seem to see the genius behind them. Microsoft doesn’t need to maximize quality or even compete on that field of play when they can render entire organizations dependent on products of less quality.

Because of this, organizations relying on Windows will have a hell of a time migrating away from Windows and the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem which means that they’re naturally going to drag their toes in doing so; the bigger they are, the slower any attempt at a migration will go. In turn, this means that there is plenty of time for those that can easily migrate away from the madness and insecurity of the Microsoft ecosystem as a means of sheltering themselves from a barrage of attacks safely in the shadow of Microsoft for the time being.

05.02.21

Microsoft-Centric “Ransomware Task Force”

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Security at 3:37 am by Guest Editorial Team

Original by Mitchel Lewis, republished with permission

Microsoft ransom
Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/701020/major-operating-systems-targeted-by-ransomware/

Summary: Mitchel Lewis, a former Microsoft employee, takes a look at Microsoft-connected or Microsoft-controlled ‘think tanks’ in ‘task force’ clothing

Although most platforms have had their flare-ups with ransomware, it’s well-known that Microsoft’s legacy architecture has a hyper-monopoly with respect to ransomware infections that consequently renders all other platforms into negligible outliers in comparison. In fact, there’s nothing in this world that Microsoft monopolizes better than ransomware attacks at the moment.

Depending on who you ask, anywhere from 85–99% of ransomware attacks occur on Microsoft architecture, often via well-known vulnerabilities. Because of this common denominator, most working within the ransomware space daily would find it supremely difficult gloss to over the vulnerability of Microsoft’s architecture as being a key component in the rising prominence of ransomware and this is especially true if they were asked to write an 80-page report on the matter.

Taskforce ransom
A “venerable” who’s who of the ransomware field.

Recently though, a team of more than 60 lawyers and supposed experts that no one has ever heard of before from software companies, cybersecurity vendors, government agencies, non-profits, and academic institutions came together with the Institute for Security and Technology, an institute that no one has ever heard of before, and achieved the irrational by developing a “comprehensive framework” attempting to tackle the modern threat of ransomware. To no surprise and in true Dunning-Kruger fashion whenever expertise is proclaimed, these experts managed to accomplish the unconscionable by overlooking Microsoft’s blatant complicity in the ransomware space and the fundamental importance of modern infrastructure in the face of IT security and prevention of ransomware in an 81-page report.

ZDNet ransom
This wasn’t even a revelation in December for anyone with half of an ass in the field of assessing root cause.

To be fair, the task farce rightfully highlighted the rise of cryptocurrency as a motivational force behind ransomware attacks and further dubbed ransomware to be a threat against our national security, this is nothing new; even my stupid ass has been talking about this for 6 months now. Many of their suggestions are relevant too and might help to some degree, but they’re reactionary and ancillary at best in comparison to an architectural shift away from Microsoft solutions; the single best preventative measure that a company can take to defend itself against various attacks plaguing industry throughout the world, ransomware or otherwise. Hell, their whole article only mentioned prevention 3 times.

Safety Detectives
Source: https://www.safetydetectives.com/blog/ransomware-statistics/

With the exception of Hafnium, most attacks are rudimentary at best and exploit well-known vulnerabilities throughout the Microsoft ecosystem and the ignorant companies refusing to mitigate these vulnerabilities in favor of convenience. More often than not, ransomware infections are a direct consequence of phishing campaigns, poor password complexity, poor lockout policies that embolden brute force attacks, poorly trained users, no MFA, no VPN, and admins ignorantly exposing RDP to the WAN, etc. All of which are fundamental no-no’s in the world of IT security that are amazingly easy to prevent and almost all of which are targeted exclusively at Microsoft cloud and server solutions hosted on-premise by their clientele. And a task force of supposed experts would have acknowledged this if they were actually experts in ransomware or IT security.

Given all of this, it seems as if Microsoft is just as much of a threat to our national security as ransomware itself; you can’t have one without the other. Although many of these attacks are preventable and much can be done to supplement Microsoft architecture to harden against said attacks, it’s becoming increasingly evident that it’s impossible for most teams to account Microsoft’s entire threat surface, ransomware or otherwise, and that it’s simply too complex, costly, and cumbersome for most IT staff to manage. As such migrating away from the Microsoft ecosystem entirely is the single most viable way to reduce your threat surface against ransomware and pretty much every other form of attack; the drastic reductions in IT ownership costs and improved employee morale are nice too I hear.

This is not easy though. On top of being notorious for ransomware, Microsoft is notorious for optimizing their solutions for lock-in, addiction if you will, which makes them incredibly difficult and costly to migrate away from. The benefits are immediate to those with the grit to migrate though.

But instead of highlighting any of this, the task farce appears to be operating under a false pretense that ransomware is somehow a platform-agnostic affair and that architecture is irrelevant while further ignoring the important role that architecture plays in preventing ransomware and neglecting to showcase Microsoft for being a common denominator that it is; bungling it massively if you will. This is so much the case that they only mentioned the word architecture once in their entire report. If anything, they appear to be adopting Microsoft’s “assume breach” approach which is just their way of shifting blame to the people who support and manage their unsupportable and unmanageable solutions. All of which forces me to question the degree of their expertise and their intentions.

As harsh as this may seem at first, questioning their expertise is fair when there seems to be no focus on preventative measures and devoid of even the most obvious architectural recommendations; no acknowledgment that most ransomware attacks are preventable, no acknowledgment that not all architectures are equal, and no acknowledgment that they often occur when fundamentals are abandoned or forbidden. More often than not, there’s an IT nerd saying, “I told you so.”, to their change-averse management post-mortem with emails to back it up and this just isn’t something that experts can simply ignore when trying to prevent ransomware.

 Katie Nickels with context
Recommendations given, no response as expected.

Katie Nickels

To say the least, the IST report would look markedly different if boots on the ground were at least consulted with beforehand, hence why I began to question it so flagrantly as someone that has dealt with ransomware and its prevention for half a decade now. In an effort to clarify their expertise, I reached out to Katie Nickels, one of the task farce members, and she didn’t argue or lambast me with credentials proving otherwise and merely asked for my recommendations; a low-key admission of my expertise concern having merit if you’re into that whole social engineering thing.

Unsurprisingly and rather than supplying ransomware experts that could provide action items for people that actually work against ransomware on a daily basis which Microsoft has an abundance of, Microsoft instead supplied their digital diplomacy team comprised of Kemba Walden, Ginny Badanes, Kaja Ciglic, and Ping Look, which is curious because none of these people get wake-up calls when ransomware is dominating the infrastructure of their clientele. So far as I can tell, none of them seem to have even gone on the record about ransomware prior to this task farce being formed and it’s hard to see their role in the task farce and the absence of Microsoft’s complicity in their report as a coincidence.

Katie Nickels' reply

When combining these oversights, the dominant presence of Microsoft spin artists within their task farce, and the high likelihood of a sizable donation from Microsoft to the Institute for Security and Technology though, none of this should come as a shock to you. As shown with fraud of dolphin-safe labeling/oversight, we live in a world where industry has a penchant for hijacking its own watchdogs with massive donations and further installing people throughout their ranks that are sympathetic to the plight of starving investors; all of which Microsoft has been accused of before which appears to be the case with the #ransomwaretaskforce. Roy Schestowitz refers to this approach as entryism and it may be time to pay more attention to these nefarious approaches in the tech space.

In summary, trying to cull ransomware via decree alone is only viable in comparison to throwing virgins into a volcano. Given Microsoft’s monopoly on ransomware attacks, the single best thing that any organization can do to prevent ransomware from ravaging your IT infrastructure is to migrate far, far away from Microsoft architecture entirely. Once that is accomplished, companies can implement multi-factor authentication, complex password requirements with password managers, and spare no expense on user training to further reduce their exposure to ransomware and other attacks that leverage these very same threat vectors. And companies can do this while reducing their ownership costs by a factor of 3 conservatively as showcased by IBM when they standardized on the Apple ecosystem; those less efficient at managing PCs at scale than IBM stand to see greater reductions.

You’re welcome to disagree and stay on Microsoft architecture or believe that approaching ransomware via bureaucracy- laden decrees is viable. It’s your funeral. But if you find yourself in this precarious position of deferring to lawyers and people that have never been on the hook to remove ransomware before, it may be a sign that you should do more reading and less talking about the matter instead.

03.29.21

Microsoft’s Death in Web Servers Accelerates Further (10% of Sites Lost in Just One Month!)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Security, Servers at 12:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s a bloodbath!

Free software RMS server

Video download link

Summary: The corporate ‘tech’ media never mentions it, but Microsoft is becoming a dying breed in Web servers (watch the video above) and it will have to quit that sector altogether some time soon

OVER the past few months we’ve closely observed the collapse of IIS and Windows in Web servers [1, 2, 3]. Today, or just over an hour ago, this latest report was published and said “Microsoft lost 9.6% (-7.5M) of its sites this month and ceded third place to OpenResty which in turn gained 1.2 million (+1.6%).”

“Shouldn’t that be all over the corporate ‘tech’ media?”Losing 10% in just one month is huge. Maybe people need to focus on that instead of some phony scandal over an E-mail sent 2 years ago (not the E-mails that really matter). IIS might be a dead product in 1-2 years from now, leaving Microsoft in the (Web) server space no better than it is in HPC/supercomputers. Shouldn’t that be all over the corporate ‘tech’ media? Well, when Microsoft pays the sites which claim to cover “tech” they’d rather defame RMS on political (non-tech) matters than cover actual tech news.

03.12.21

EPO Breaking the Law With Microsoft and Promoting Fake ‘Encryption’ That Violates Confidentiality on Many Levels

Posted in Deception, Europe, Microsoft, Security at 6:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: An explanation of how truly ridiculous the EPO has become, handing over to Microsoft (and to the US government) just about all of the EPO’s communications in direct violation of the law, as well, so the only question now is, will the law actually be enforced soon? Contact your local MP/MEP and report this to him/her.

THE EPO is breaking the law. The António Campinos regime is just as bad as Benoît Battistelli‘s, even when it comes to privacy and pressuring judges to allow unlawful patents, such as software patents.

Steve Rowan - Vice President DG1 - Patent Granting ProcessIn parts of the series prior to this one, including Part II, we explained what the EPO had done and why it’s illegal. I recorded a video (the one above) prior to the publication of Part II.

It’s a long video, we could add a lot of links to it (I thought of many that would be relevant while recording it, but failed to take notes throughout), though the ones that seem of most relevance are Microsoft and the NSA relations, the latest Exchange fiasco (as recently as hours ago they still try to distract from it), how end-to-end encryption (e2ee) really works and some background about Stephen Rowan. The full text of the communication is reproduced below:

04.02.2021

Home > Organisation > DG 1 > The Vice-President > Announcements > 2021

Outlook Migration to the Cloud

Data encryption requirements for sending highly confidential data via Outlook

As announced in previous intranet items published in May and December 2020, our Outlook mailboxes
are being transferred to the cloud.
The transfer will take place in phases and cover only emails since 1 January 2021.
As regards the patent grant process, only the following documents are classed as “EPO strictly
confidential” and must not be sent by email without encryption:
(i) application documents of unpublished applications (EP, PCT, national)
(ii) search reports, search opinions, communications and decisions relating to unpublished applications
(iii) search statements resulting in the disclosure of unpublished application documents (Guidelines B-III,
2.4; B-IV, 2.4)
(iv) documents excluded from file inspection (documents which are marked as non-public in DI+, such as
dissenting opinions, medical certificates, PACE requests, etc.)
Guidance for the storage of strictly confidential information in the cloud
The storage of strictly confidential documents in the cloud should be avoided, and data should not be
copied unnecessarily from the EPO’s specialised document management systems such as DI+. In
practice, this means that, instead of e.g. copying data into an email, you should send a link to the
document in the document management system (see also “How to send an email with document links or
zipped attachment via Outlook”).
Where sharing of strictly confidential data is necessary, the data must be encrypted before storing it in the
cloud or sending a link to it via email.
It is strongly recommended that you do not send the data directly in an email but instead encrypt the
document, store it in the cloud, e.g. on SharePoint or OneDrive, and then send the recipients a link to the
encrypted document by email. The password then needs to be shared via a separate channel, e.g. in a
Teams chat, via Skype or on the telephone. Sending encrypted attachments is strongly discouraged, as
they might not pass spam filters: using encrypted attachments is a very common way to infect user
computers, so our email gateways do not allow encrypted attachments to be sent from or to our Outlook
cloud instance.
The easiest and safest way of encrypting a document is to use the built-in capabilities of the Office
programs. Simply protect the document with a password, which also will encrypt the document with a
strong encryption algorithm. Obviously, this password should be safe. As a rule of thumb, it should be
about as complex as our login passwords, but of course not identical to a password already used. Chat is
a good way to send the password, as a long random password can be easily copied and pasted from the
chat into the password prompt in the Office program. Examples of how to apply encryption in popular
Office programs are in the document annexed here.

Reasons and background

The level of security provided by Microsoft’s cloud services is very high and will even mean an
improvement in information security for our email system. In the cloud, our mailboxes will be protected by
the most sophisticated systems.
Email in Microsoft’s datacentres is stored with a high standard of encryption, both in transit and at rest.
With the help of contract terms, a data protection agreement and technical implementation, the EPO has
ensured the best possible protection for the data stored using Microsoft’s cloud services. Microsoft
guarantees that the data itself is stored on EU servers within the jurisdiction of the European data
protection rules (GDPR).
Under the US Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) and the US Clarifying Lawful Overseas
Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act), Microsoft is obliged to grant security and intelligence agencies access to
data stored in its cloud, even when stored on EU servers.
However, the protection level offered by Microsoft is still sufficiently high for DG 1 processes in place for
confidential data exchange not to need encryption.
By contrast, to comply with the highest standards, which of course include the requirements imposed
under the GDPR, encryption is needed for strictly confidential data.
The guidance on the use of cloud tools therefore states that it is only strictly confidential data that must
not be stored in plain form in the cloud, whereas merely confidential information can be stored there
without limitations. The EPO defines “strictly confidential” in its “policy for information classification”
(document attached) as:
EPO strictly confidential: Information unauthorised disclosure of which could compromise or
cause severe damage to the EPO or could cause damage to an identifiable individual or his
or her reputation. Access control cannot be delegated by the information owner, and is restricted to
registered named persons only. See here for more information.
The vast majority of DG 1 documents do not fall into this category, and this is true for typical performance related
data too, since even poor performance must be regarded as “normal” working behaviour and
cannot be considered to actually cause damage to an individual. For strictly confidential data, additional
access control measures, such as registering people with access, are already implemented where
required.

04.02.21 | Author: Steve Rowan – Vice President DG1 – Patent Granting Process

In Part III, which we will publish tomorrow, lots more will be shown.

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