Practical Technology

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Does Windows 8 help the government to spy on us?

The Microsoft fan club is up in arms. Those reports about Windows 8 allowing the government to spy on us? Nonsense, they fuss. It’s simply not true that Windows 8 combines with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to create a built-in back door for surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).

No, no, they whine, the German newspaper Die Zeit had it all wrong when it claimed that the combination of TPM 2.0 and Windows 8.x (German-language article) gives Microsoft complete control over which programs can and can’t run, plus access to Windows BitLocker encryption, and the ability to remotely administer devices beyond a user’s control.

And, oh my, no, the NSA or some other government agency could never, ever get into your computer or tablet via this technology pairing! Some Microsoft defenders even claim that the explanation from Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) (German-language article) about what’s going on with Windows 8 and TPM 2.0 makes it clear that there’s no real danger from using the pair in combination.

Really? They’re not reading the same memo I’m reading.

I quote: “From the perspective of the BSI, the use of Windows 8 in combination with a TPM 2.0 is accompanied by a loss of control over the operating system and the hardware. [Emphasis and translation are mine.] This results in new risks for users, especially for the federal government and critical infrastructure. In particular… error conditions can result that prevent further operation of the system. This can cause errors that can brick the operating system and hardware. Such a situation would not be acceptable for the federal government nor for other users. In addition, the newly established mechanisms can also be used for sabotage by third parties. These risks need to be addressed.”

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