Microsoft: Vista won't get a backdoor

"Over my dead body" will governments get into encrypted files, says one Microsoft employee working on Windows update.

Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Joris Evers covers security.
Joris Evers
2 min read
Windows Vista won't have a backdoor that could be used by police forces to get into encrypted files, Microsoft has stressed.

In February, a BBC News story suggested that the British government was in discussions with Microsoft over backdoor access to the operating system. A backdoor is a method of bypassing normal authentication to gain access to a computer without to the PC user knowing.

But Microsoft has now quelled the suggestion that law enforcement might get such access.

"Microsoft has not and will not put 'backdoors' into Windows," a company representative said in a statement sent via e-mail.

The discussion centers on BitLocker Drive Encryption, a planned security feature for Vista, the update to the Windows operating system. BitLocker encrypts data to protect it if the computer is lost or stolen.

This feature could make it harder for law enforcement agencies to get access to data on seized computers.

"The suggestion is that we are working with governments to create a back door so that they can always access BitLocker-encrypted data," Niels Ferguson, a developer and cryptographer at Microsoft, wrote Thursday on a corporate blog. "Over my dead body," he wrote in his post titled "Back-door nonsense."

Microsoft is talking to various governments about Vista. However, the talks are about using the new operating system and BitLocker for their own security, Ferguson wrote. "We also get questions from law enforcement organizations. They foresee that they will want to read BitLocker-encrypted data, and they want to be prepared," he wrote.

"Back doors are simply not acceptable," Ferguson wrote. "Besides, they wouldn't find anybody on this team willing to implement and test the back door."

Windows Vista, the successor to Windows XP, is slated to be available by year's end.