Security Advisor

BitLocker Engineer Allegedly Asked for Encryption Backdoor by FBI

In a report by Mashable, the BitLocker team was approached by agents multiple times about creating an easy access point for federal law enforcement.

As details of the National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program continue to come to the surface via leaked documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden, personnel working on Microsoft's BitLocker said it was actually the FBI -- not the NSA -- that approached them about creating a backdoor for law enforcement.

In an interview conducted by Mashable, a news and lifestyle publication, Peter Biddle, head engineer during BitLocker's creation, said he was approached by federal agents and asked to create a backdoor in Microsoft's encryption software to battle crime -- specifically child pornography.

"I was asked multiple times," Biddle told Mashable. "And at least once the question was more, 'If we were to officially ask you, what would you say?'"

The account follows last week's news that the NSA has spent over $250 million per year since 2000 to try to convince the larger tech firms to create easy access to personal information for federal law enforcement agencies.

This week's interview of Biddle now alleges that the NSA wasn't alone. While Biddle said he wasn't sure which agency approached him, an anonymous source that also worked on BitLocker told Mashable that it definitely was the FBI that constantly approached Microsoft.

"It's going to be really, really hard for us to do our jobs if every single person could have this technology," said the FBI, according to the anonymous source. "How do we break it?"

Both Biddle and the unnamed source told the publication that every time they were asked, they would continue to deny the FBI's request -- which put the BitLocker team in an awkward situation.

"I realized that we were in this really interesting spot, sort of stuck in the middle between wanting to do a much better job at protecting our users' information, and at the same time realizing that this was starting to make government employees unhappy," Biddle said in the interview.

While Biddle denies building in a backdoor, his team worked with the FBI to teach them how they could possibly retrieve data, including targeting the backup encryption keys of users.

"As soon as we said that, the mood in the room changed dramatically," said the anonymous Microsoft engineer to Mashable. "They got really excited."

The Mashable article is an interesting read, and sheds some additional information on other tech firms, like the privacy app Wickr, being approached by the FBI in order to facilitate a backdoor for the agency. Read the full report here.  

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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