Apr 30 2008

Microsoft giving police tools they can get for themselves

Published by at 6:27 am under Government,Microsoft

This was looking like it could have been a great story for the conspiracy theorists in all of us: Microsoft is helping law enforcement agencies by giving them USB keys with forensics tools to help with cybercrime investigations. It can ‘decrypt passwords and analyze a computer’s internet activity’, something every good law enforcement agent needs. The Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor (Cofee) offers up 150 commands (what do they mean by ‘command’? Is that 150 tools or one tool with 150 commands?) and makes it easier for beleaguered cops to perform an investigation.

A number of people, most notably Mike Masnick, have jumped to the conclusion that this offers some sort of back door to law enforcement. Ed Bott fires back calling this inflammatory and rants a bit against the echo chamber that is the blogosphere. I can see why Mike would jump to the conclusion he did, that Microsoft was offering up some special sauce for criminal investigators, but as Ed points out, the tools included on the USB drive are all available elsewhere, MS has just made easier by putting them on one USB key.

Ed also points out another thing: the bad guys have had USB keys that do most, if not all, of the same things for years. The USB Switchblade works wonders, is freely available and probably is more dangerous than any of the tools in the Cofee suite. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more savvy forensics investigators haven’t been carrying USB Switchblades around for a couple of years.

This is twice in a week that I know of computer crime stories got blown out of proportion. Is it a trend or just a blip in the statistics? All I know is it feels weird to not be on the side being called paranoid.

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Microsoft giving police tools they can get for themselves”

  1. Not Disclosedon 01 May 2008 at 3:41 am

    Blown out of proportion? I’d say it needs even more exposure. Privacy rights have been a long gone thing of the past.

    It is not, and should not be, the purpose of Microsoft to do any work of or for the police. Do the cops write code for them? Wait, uh, they probably do. But that’s inappropriate as well.

    I’m probably just bouncing this off the four walls anyhow. You are more likely to be part of the propaganda machine that you are to be a commentator.


  2. George Ouon 02 May 2008 at 1:00 am

    This is blown WAY out of proportion. If Microsoft gave the police some thing that would bypass BitLocker or EFS for example through some sort of key escrow, then that would be a HUGE backdoor. That’s not what we’re talking about though and the story is utter nonsense. Every method they’re giving to the police is already known to the hackers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with helping the police solve crimes.

    If you really want privacy, make sure you’re using BitLocker properly and shut down your computer when you’re not using it.

  3. billyon 26 Jun 2008 at 3:51 pm

    USB Switchblade is en excellent to for network security admins you can download it from the net 😉 However im not sure the net version has 150 commands it would be interesting to get the source code for the 150 police one 😉

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