Microsoft is reportedly looking for new ways to more securely encrypt its internet traffic amid concerns that the National Security Agency (NSA) may have breached its network. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Washington Post reports that Microsoft executives are discussing possible encryption measures this week, and will determine how soon to implement them.
The move comes following revelations that the NSA has been secretly collecting user data from other tech giants. In October, the newspaper reported that the agency has been tapping into Google and Yahoo networks to obtain user information, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Two unreleased documents mention Microsoft's Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger, and a leaked email includes a reference to the now-defunct Microsoft Passport service, though there's no evidence that the NSA was explicitly targeting the company.
"strengthening security against snooping by governments."
Company officials told the Post they have no independent confirmation that Microsoft has been targeted under the program, known as MUSCULAR, though revelations about the NSA's surveillance of Google and Yahoo have heightened fears that had been brewing for months. It's not clear what Microsoft's new encryption measures would entail, but sources tell the paper that potential initiatives would span "across the full range of consumer and business services."
"We’re focused on engineering improvements that will further strengthen security," Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, told the Post, "including strengthening security against snooping by governments."
Earlier this year, Microsoft joined Facebook and Google in calling for greater transparency about federal requests for user data, underscoring the widespread backlash that the NSA leaks have sparked. Google has already begun deploying stronger encryption tools, though reports suggest that the most common techniques would likely be ineffective in guarding against NSA surveillance.
In a statement, the NSA repeated its argument that government surveillance programs only focus on legitimate targets.
"NSA's focus is on targeting the communications of valid foreign intelligence targets," the NSA said in a statement, "not on collecting and exploiting a class of communications or services that would sweep up communications that are not of bona fide foreign intelligence interest to the US government."