Outlook Bleak: Microsoft Leaves Backdoor Open For NSA


Microsoft has worked closely with U.S. intelligence agencies, providing a way for investigators to view encrypted email and other sensitive files.

The software maker reportedly helped the FBI and the NSA by providing a workaround to view information before it was encrypted by the company's services.

Documents obtained by The Guardian show that Microsoft teamed up to circumvent encrypted Outlook.com messages. The company also helped federal investigators understand new features in Outlook that could be used to view data prior to being encrypted, the U.K.-based publication reported.

[Related: Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Calls NSA Leak A 'Huge Breach']

In addition to Outlook.com, data provided to the NSA and other agencies upon request includes information stored in Microsoft SkyDrive, the company's cloud storage service. The NSA Prism program, exposed by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, also showed the controversial spying program had access to Skype, which Microsoft acquired in 2011.

The Guardian said the documents it acquired from Snowden show Microsoft helped NSA intercept Web chats on the new Outlook.com portal. The agency also had the ability to view email on Outlook.com and Hotmail before it was encrypted by the user.

Microsoft also appears to have helped the NSA triple the amount of Skype video calls being collected through its Prism program. Data collection was shared among FBI, CIA and NSA officials, the documents reportedly show.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment. The company issued a statement to The Guardian reiterating previous statements that it only complies with lawful demands.

Microsoft issued its law enforcement disclosure report in March indicating that it received more than 11,000 requests for access to its user data by U.S. authorities in 2012. The company granted access to information on 1,500 individuals, according to the report, which outlines lawful requests made for information on users of its SkyDrive, Xbox, Outlook, Hotmail, Skype and other services.

Microsoft said it received 1,000 National Security Letters, demands from the FBI and other senior intelligence officials to secretly access user information. The company said the NSA letters impacted about 2,000 user accounts. Microsoft has been forced to provide "the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records" of users of its services, when it receives the demand letters. It is restricted from informing the user that it granted access.

PUBLISHED JULY 12, 2013