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Microsoft scans blogger's Hotmail account to track down Windows 8 leaker

Microsoft scans blogger's Hotmail account to track down Windows 8 leaker

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An ex-Microsoft employee has been arrested and charged with leaking early copies of Windows 8 and Windows 7. Seattle PI reports that software architect Alex Kibkalo is accused of stealing trade secrets and leaking confidential beta copies of Windows 8 to an unnamed "French technology blogger." Kibkalo was reportedly motivated to leak the software after a poor performance review at Microsoft. Details and copies of Windows 7 and Windows 8 regularly leaked during the course of the software’s development, and the French blogger used a nickname online to protect their identity.

While copies of Windows were being regularly shared and leaked, Kibkalo is also alleged to have stolen Microsoft’s "Activation Server Software Development Kit," software for a system used to protect against piracy. The unnamed French blogger reportedly shared the kit online, allowing others to circumvent activation protections used for Microsoft Office and Windows. Microsoft identified the employee leaking the information after the French blogger contacted another employee by email. Kibkalo was arrested on Wednesday after more than a year of investigations, and the ex-Microsoft employee will now appear in a US district court today.

Update: CNET has obtained court documents that indicate Microsoft accessed the blogger's private Hotmail account to trace the identity of the leaker, and that the company deemed this to be legal. The move raises concerns about Hotmail user privacy, although Microsoft's privacy policy states that the company may access a Hotmail (now account's contents.

Microsoft responded with the following statement:

During an investigation of an employee we discovered evidence that the employee was providing stolen IP, including code relating to our activation process, to a third party. In order to protect our customers and the security and integrity of our products, we conducted an investigation over many months with law enforcement agencies in multiple countries. This included the issuance of a court order for the search of a home relating to evidence of the criminal acts involved. The investigation repeatedly identified clear evidence that the third party involved intended to sell Microsoft IP and had done so in the past.

As part of the investigation, we took the step of a limited review of this third party's Microsoft operated accounts. While Microsoft's terms of service make clear our permission for this type of review, this happens only in the most exceptional circumstances. We apply a rigorous process before reviewing such content. In this case, there was a thorough review by a legal team separate from the investigating team and strong evidence of a criminal act that met a standard comparable to that required to obtain a legal order to search other sites. In fact, as noted above, such a court order was issued in other aspects of the investigation.