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Windows Security

German Government Warns Windows 8 Is an Unacceptable Security Risk 373

Posted by timothy
from the nicht-ganz-recht dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Die Zeit has access to leaked documents from the German government warning that Windows 8 is an unacceptable security risk for sensitive workloads. The story is written in German here, but automatic translators (such as Google Translate) do a readable job. Particularly of concern is the inability to opt out of TPM 2.0 usage."
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German Government Warns Windows 8 Is an Unacceptable Security Risk

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  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:54AM (#44641381)
    Windows has always been a Security Risk.
    Danke.
  • by madsdyd (228464) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:57AM (#44641413)

    Good thing alternatives exists.

    I am not advocating they should "just change". I am just saying that on a personal level I am very happy that thrustworthy alternatives exists, and that Windows (no longer) is an requirement at the workplace or at home, but just an option.

    Thank you, Stallman, Linus, and all you other people around the world, who have used your time to provide us with these alternatives.

    And, yes, I know some people will claim that Windows is an requirement for the specific uses you have. I don't really care - for the wast majority of computing users around the world, Windows is an option, not an requirement. And, I am happy for that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's telling that around here Stallman and Linus are mentioned before Richie and Thompson.

      It's be like me thanking the Lougheads and forgetting Ader, Whitehead and the Wrights.

      Typical misleading Slashdorks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The license of Unix we use costs about $20,000 for the number of users we have.

        Not practical for most people. Thank the people who make it practical. It's you who is wrong, not him.

      • by sjames (1099)

        It's not a matter of forgetting, we all know who invented Unix. We also know that until Stallman and Linus, Unix in it's various commercial flavors was a fantastically expensive OS that was entirely out of reach for most and BSD was so thoroughly tied up in legal wrangling that it might have gone *poof* any day.

        So yeah, without Richie and Thompson there would be no nix, but without Linus and Stallman it would be several times more expensive than the hardware.

    • by inking (2869053) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:33AM (#44641751)
      Considering that the vastest majority of users have very basic needs--to quote someone I knew "I need to be able to use Facebook and the Internet"--modern Linux distributions and probably OSX are actually a better solution for them than Windows due to the simple fact that they are currently significantly less likely to get malware and thus break them.
    • by blackest_k (761565) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:58AM (#44641995) Homepage Journal

      I'm not so sure if running Linux would be any safer with a machine that has the trusted computer module built in. Does it even need to be a separate piece of silicon or could it be built into the cpu?

      Maybe intel inside, might at some point change meaning and at what point does this occur ten years time, now or already?

      Maybe Germany might create a demand for non trusted computers but would they keep them clean or just put in their own backdoors?

          Ok we know that the USA spies on everyone even their own, but lets not pretend it isn't happening all over the world. Name a trustworthy Government any where.
           

      • by Cassini2 (956052) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:37AM (#44642557)

        The concept behind TPM could work really well, if every user compiled their own operating system, and set up the unique keys such that only their code was trusted. Thus, every user would have complete control over all the source and binary software on the system. Even in a business environment, if at least the business was in complete control of all of the source and binary software, then TPM would be of some use.

        The problem is that Microsoft wants to use TPM to play a bunch of DRM movies. The DRM schemes are inherently insecure, so Microsoft opens its security window accordingly. The result is that Microsoft's security model becomes "trust Microsoft, the NSA, movie companies. music companies, game companies, and etc", with no one knowing who the "etc" is. As such, from a secure systems perspective, the resulting DRM operating system has no obvious chain of accountability. Worse, any lesson in security starts with "never trust the vendors default installation." DRM assumes "never trust the customer." With the end result being that no one trusts anyone and TPM can never be secure (with commercial closed-box software.)

        For TPM to truly deliver on its security promises, everyone needs to switch to open source software where everyone compiles unique binaries with custom keys. Microsoft will never do this.

    • by gmuslera (3436)

      Try to buy today a computer/notebook that don't includes Windows 8, even gets bricked if you try to use something else, and that the manufacturer refuse to support if you installed something else on it.

      In the other hand, this should improve the selling of the ones that are open regarding that (i.e. that you can install Linux on it with all the hardware working, and that gets manufacturer support even if you do so), and put the ones that went fully on Windows 8 in even more troubles. Hope that most governme

    • by mjwx (966435)

      I am just saying that on a personal level I am very happy that thrustworthy alternatives exists,

      I like Linux too, but I'm not that excited.

  • Not just Win8 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geek (5680) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:59AM (#44641429) Homepage

    Everything Microsoft produces. I have the misfortune of working with the MS developers on a regular basis and if I had a nickle for every time they told me they didnt know how their own software works I'd be richer than Bill Gates.

    Nevermind the inherent security flaws in their crap OS, my concern, and the concern from every foreign country should be MS's willingness to work with the NSA. If ever there was a time to ditch Microsoft and go Open Source it is now.

    • Which Microsoft software are you referring to? If you expect people that develop in ASP.NET to know how the Windows kernel works, do you also expect people who develop websites in OSS languages to know the intracacies of the Linux kernel?

      • Windows. And he isn't talking about people who write software in ASP.NET, he's talking about the people who created and maintain ASP.NET.

        • Yes of course. I misread it as "working with MS developers" not "working with the MS developers". My apologies.

      • Indeed. On large software products like those Microsoft is famous for, is often necessary not to know how every component of product works at a detail level. There are abstractions in place to allow the work to be easily divided amongst a large number of developers, and you typically won't know the implementation details of modules that you didn't have a hand in creating. There's simply too much code for anyone to truly know how everything works. "I don't know" is often the right answer.

        That is, unless

    • by GrBear (63712)

      If ever there was a time to ditch Microsoft and go Open Source it is now.

      Sure, soon as my PC games all work on an OSS alternative I'll switch without hesitation. Until then Windows will be the OS du jour.

    • by LQ (188043) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:40AM (#44641819)

      I had a nickle for every time they told me they didnt know how their own software works I'd be richer than Bill Gates

      If it takes them 10 secs to say that, and Bill Gates has 50 billion dollars, it would take you 16000 years to get that rich.

  • by afidel (530433) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:59AM (#44641431)

    TPM is nothing more than a hardware keystore, I'm not sure how they'd see it as a security risk unless they're worried that the NSA has the MS signing key's private key (probable) but even then it doesn't exactly give you worse security than other OS's without access to a hardware keystore.

    • by Sique (173459) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:08AM (#44641509) Homepage
      Just read TFA, it does a good job at explaining the security risks and concers. One important concern is that while the BSI (the german Federal Office for Information Security) was involved in the TPM 2.0 specification, all their proposals were denied, while the proposals the NSA had were accepted. And the final acceptance was announced with "The NSA agrees".
      • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:29AM (#44641697) Homepage

        So we have a case of sour grapes, then? Unless one of the NSA requests was "we want a backdoor" then this by itself doesn't mean much because the NSA is a weird creation that not only spies on everyone, but has an "information assurance" department that tries to design secure systems for US usage. They're behind the creation of SELinux which is both highly sophisticated and well reviewed by independent third parties. It does not have back doors. Also, many important constructions in cryptography were designed by the NSA. For example SHA2 was designed by the NSA and it is extensively studied. It has never been found to contain even a hint of a back door.

        This crap about how the TPM allows Microsoft to remotely control computers for DRM purposes came up over a decade ago when trusted computing extensions were first designed. It was FUD back then with no connection to reality, and it's certainly FUD today too. If you want to learn about the actual next-gen TC technologies, go and read up on Intel SGX. Then go and read this post on bcflick [bitcointalk.org], a use of the TPM and trusted computing designed to make Bitcoin wallets more secure. That's the kind of thing the tech is designed for. The TPM isn't even electrically capable of controlling the CPU.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I am a bit unclear as to how you go from "everything the Germans wanted was ignored" to "sour grapes". Could you please explain your thought process there?

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:40AM (#44641813) Homepage

          Unless one of the NSA requests was "we want a backdoor" then this by itself doesn't mean much because the NSA is a weird creation that not only spies on everyone, but has an "information assurance" department that tries to design secure systems for US usage.

          But since nobody actually knows, and because if the NSA informed Microsoft to hand over the keys they'd be legally required to, and because while they help design 'secure systems for US usage' nobody trust them for anything that isn't the US.

          So, it's OK if you want to trust TPM, Microsoft, and the NSA. But that doesn't mean that the rest of the world has any reason to do so.

          I think you are increasingly going to see governments around the world look at Microsoft and say "do we want to put all of our infrastructure in the hands of someone who has to take orders from a US spy agency?" And I think the only logical conclusion is going to increasingly be "no, not really".

          • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@@@project-retrograde...com> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:18AM (#44642245)

            I think you are increasingly going to see governments around the world look at Microsoft and say "do we want to put all of our infrastructure in the hands of someone who has to take orders from a US spy agency?" And I think the only logical conclusion is going to increasingly be "no, not really".

            Oh hey, look, a Windows Update -- A remote root level patch to my operating system, one that in the past has had glaring issues with certificate signing, and now we suspect could be gag ordered and required to hand over the keys to install anything the NSA wants into any Windows system on the planet.

            I think the question will be, "Do we want to use software with a HUGE BACKDOOR in it for anything at all ever?" And I believe the conclusion is going to be far worse than, "no, not really".

            Meanwhile the "conspiracy nuts" who've seen the writing on the wall for decades (Omnivore, Carnivore, ECHELON, PRISM, etc) can smugly declare either, "Finally" or "I told you so." then go right back to being ignored by fools at large.

        • by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:45AM (#44641873)

          I was also a nice trustworthy person which caught people by surprise when I stole money from their wallets.

          Ok no I wasn't but just because the NSA has at times released software without backdoors should in no way influence your opinion of their future performance, especially given future performance is malware that provides a back door, not to mention back doors to every ISP in the country, spying on international conferences etc. Honestly it would be outright foolish to assume that anything they had a major hand in is safe.

          That said TPM serves one purpose, secure the system from the prying hands of the user. The only thing holding back DRM being the primary beneficiary of TPM is the lack of adoption and the fact that TPM is entirely voluntary. If every computer had a TPM module regardless of the users preference you could be damn certain that many DRM schemes would be using this. A trusted key store safe from the user is exactly the kind of security system a DRM scheme needs to operate well.

          Just because something hasn't (yet) come true does not make it FUD.

          • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:24AM (#44642363) Homepage

            The only thing holding back DRM being the primary beneficiary of TPM is the lack of adoption and the fact that TPM is entirely voluntary. If every computer had a TPM module regardless of the users preference you could be damn certain that many DRM schemes would be using this.

            Microsoft has announced [microsoft.com] that from January 1, 2015 all computers will have to be equipped with a TPM 2.0 module in order to pass the Windows 8.1 hardware certification. And while not every computer will run Windows, I very much doubt you'll find a computer that can't run Windows so that's the end of TPM-less hardware. Of course Windows 8.1 will run on non-TPM hardware but I figure in a few years Windows 9 will refuse to run on anything but TPM-enabled hardware. That's the end of the PC as an open platform and you can already prepare for the funeral.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:11AM (#44641525)

      A hardware keystore you don't have the keys to.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:12AM (#44641539)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trusted_Platform_Module [Wiki]
      See "Criticism" section:

      "... The concerns include the abuse of remote validation of software (where the manufacturer — and not the user who owns the computer system — decides what software is allowed to run) and possible ways to follow actions taken by the user being recorded in a database, in a manner that is completely undetectable to the user.
      In simple words, it removes user's ability to control the hardware he owns, reducing the device to hardware maker's stealthy agent.
      It is "Trusted" to hardware manufacturer, but, the same makes it "uncontrollable" for the user - making the user dependent on trust to the manufacturer, or whatever government or authority there is at particular location."

    • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:25AM (#44641653)
      The concern is mainly that the system hinges on the TPM, which in version 2.0 of the standard is controlled by the OS and can't be deactivated. Either you unconditionally trust the operating system (and its vendor) or you can't trust the entire system. Plus, the NSA got to mess with the standard while at least the German BSI (who issued this warning) tried but didn't get anywhere (e.g. they failed to get an opt-out function added to the standard). Plus, all TCG members are American companies and several of them are known to have made deals with the NSA before (such as giving information about security flaws to them first).

      In short: The BSI doesn't unconditionally trust Microsoft around sensitive documents and recommends that no TPM 2.0 compatible OS from Microsoft is used where those might show up because TPM 2.0 makes trust in the OS vendor mandatory. Win8/TPM2 is okay for home users who don't want to think about computer security but it has no business being around stuff that might cause harm if leaked to foreign intelligence agencies.
    • by Skapare (16644)

      So I can write and erase anything I want to in the TPM?

    • by cardpuncher (713057) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:42AM (#44641843)

      Some issues:

      It's a hardware keystore under the control of the vendor: they have access to your keys, you don't have access to their keys.

      If you've bought only-certified-for-use-outside-the-US hardware you may find yourself only able to run the OS-with-NSA-backdoor "export" version of your chosen operating system.

      If your software vendor decides (or has decided for them) that your web browser (for example) should not permit you to access certain websites, it can be enforced in hardware outside of your control.

      The remote "attestation" feature as originally designed could effectively identify individuals (or at least individual pieces of hardware) on the Internet, effectively abolishing any vestige of privacy. It is siad that Direct Anonymous Attestation introduced in the latest round of TPM specs permits the integrity of the TPM (for Digital Rights Management) to be tested without revealing the identity of the device.

      In other words, if you have control of the TPM, it's exactly "just" a hardware keystore. However, if you don't have control, or if control must be ceded to another party in order to run some particular piece of software, you are entirely under the control of that party - and whoever controls them. And if you suspect your security is being compromised, you can't necessarily fire up a debugger or trace system calls, because unless that debugger has been signed by the OS vendor it's not going to run and you have no means of knowing whether it behaves as documented. It's a potential rootkit mechanism: you have to trust the OS vendor implicitly. And that's the point - it's not about allowing you to "trust" the vendor, it's about the vendor's "trust" in their control of you.

  • by DogDude (805747)
    This doesn't make any sense. It's insecure because you can't NOT use TPM?
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:04AM (#44641463)

      It is insecure because you CAN'T use it for your purposes.

      It is only there for MS and, by extension, the NSA.

      You didn't think that secure boot crap was for YOUR benefit, did you?

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sique (173459) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:10AM (#44641517) Homepage
      It is insecure because you have to use TPM and can't opt out. So it's not you defininig the security parameters, it's Microsoft. And the agencies sitting in Microsoft's back and dictating the rules.
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:31AM (#44641719) Homepage

      This doesn't make any sense. It's insecure because you can't NOT use TPM?

      If you don't trust the security of TPM, or that it doesn't have in-built stuff the NSA can use to spy on you ... then, yes, you have to consider it insecure.

      It's a 'secure' system you don't control, which means if you need a secure environment, you need to trust a 3rd party.

      If that 3rd party is Microsoft, who we know is beholden to the NSA -- then you betcherass it's considered insecure. Essentially, the German security people are saying "we don't trust Microsoft or the NSA/US government" -- therefore the entire platform is considered not secure.

      One of the biggest complaints about TPM is that you have to explicitly trust whoever controls the keys and the like. And if you don't control it, and don't trust the 3rd party, the whole thing is garbage.

      So, it makes perfect sense -- because TPM has never been about the users ability to define their own trust, it's about the manufacturer saying "you're going to have to trust us or not use our stuff". So, not using their stuff is the logical conclusion.

  • by DingerX (847589) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:05AM (#44641469) Journal
    Where the BSI takes issue [www.zeit.de] with their reporting.

    Of course, with the extent now clear of the US government's use of US IT companies to maintain American political and economic advantages, if you were running a non-US-based company or a non-US-governmental organization, you'd want to do as much critical business with non-American hardware, software and services as possible.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by bfandreas (603438)

      Where the BSI takes issue [www.zeit.de] with their reporting. Of course, with the extent now clear of the US government's use of US IT companies to maintain American political and economic advantages, if you were running a non-US-based company or a non-US-governmental organization, you'd want to do as much critical business with non-American hardware, software and services as possible.

      I wouldn't take technological advice from Die Zeit. They still think steam engines will never replace the Spinning Jenny.
      Also ... the BSI ... bruahahaha.

      *snort*

      Whatever backdoor MS has planted for whoever asked them will propably have made its way into any older Windows version via their automatic update.

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      While the original article was a bit on the hysterical side, the basic point remains: Windows 8+ in combination with a TPM is not deemed trustworthy enough to handle sensitive documents. It's an unacceptable security risk for people who handle classified government data, which is all the BSI ever said.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:08AM (#44641507)

    One of the example searches about XKeyscore, (the NSA software that lets them do ad-hoc searches on everyone's private comms) was

    "show me all new VPN connections in country X"

    How does it get the VPN connection data? When I investigated Windows *7*, I notice that when a VPN connection is made by the OS, the software makes two connections, one directly to a Microsoft server bypassing the VPN and one through the VPN. Both share session ids. It seems to flag to Microsoft (and NSA) the two IP addresses (via the VPN / original un-routed VPN address).

    So they're focussing on Windows 8, but Windows 7 has its share of nightmares.

    Then has anyone looked at Symantec / Norton 360 etc.? With all it's "password vault" features and online URL checks. It could be the NSA has served these companies with secret warrants. So we may not be able to trust that it will flag NSA spyware, or that passwords are not making their way into the Utah Stasibase.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Do you have a link to some sort of evidence? I'm sure lots of people would love to see that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bullshit and FUD. If this were the case the web would be lit with packet dumps from people demanding an explanation. Pics or it didn't happen.

      Have you looked closely at ANY "cloud based" AV lately? They all communicate with the mothership if you don't wrap the ethernet in tinfoil! *snort* Surely we need to move to Russian or Chinese sourced AV for complete security right?

  • by Golden_Rider (137548) * on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:16AM (#44641581)

    The BSI (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik) published a clarification after websites reported about that Windows 8 warning: https://www.bsi.bund.de/DE/Presse/Pressemitteilungen/Presse2013/Windows_TPM_Pl_21082013.html [bsi.bund.de]

    Basically, they pedalled back a bit. They now claim they never warned about Windows 8 itself, but about possible risks when combining Windows 8 with TPM 2.0, because the user no longer has complete control over his system and that because of that, the user could end up in a situation where the system is permanently unusable. They no longer mention the US / the NSA and the possibility for backdoors, instead they now just mention the possibility of "sabotage", and the need for an opt-in AND opt-out for things like TPM 2.0.

    • this whole thing is typical anti-Microsoft hype however, one example of where you can get fucked is if you use disk encryption with the TPM module. Your disk is forever mated with the motherboard and if the mobo dies first, so goes your disk.

  • ...not used by anybody be a 'security risk'?
  • by redmid17 (1217076) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:41AM (#44641833)

    From Wikipedia's TPM talk page in 2007:

    As much as I love the NSA looking through email and phone records, I would prefer that the had to *at least* work for it. Trusted Computing (What a crock BTW) says it can be turned off, but does anyone know how? Fosnez 07:52, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

  • I mean, the moment that "government" is included in a statement about technology policies, you should just look away. There is no reason why TPM makes Windows 8 less secure, and as a platform, Windows 8 is one of the most secure versions of Windows created. While I would argue greatly that Windows 8 is about as secure as any other OS (I mean hell, Linux is full of security patches just as much as any other mutha fucking OS), this screams of stupid anti-Microsoft lobbying using FUD as their "factual" ground

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @10:13AM (#44643059)

    They could have just stopped at "Unacceptable."

  • Privacy issues (Score:4, Informative)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @10:31AM (#44643317)
    I think the Microsoft Account and related stuff is also quite bad privacy and security risk. Apparently [engadget.com] 8.1 will send your searches to Microsoft in a similar way to Unity's "Amazon shopping lens". When enabled, the IE SmartScreen filter will send your browser URLs to MS. All sorts of little things here and there -- "would you like to send information to company X to improve our services". I suppose you can get rid of most of it by carefully unticking each buried checkbox, but it's getting increasingly hard to opt out of this kind of junk. What if I just want to be alerted about Patch Tuesday updates?
  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @12:24PM (#44644863)
    If there ever are any rollbacks to NSA spying, it will be done not because of right and wrong or on Constitutional grounds, but merely due to the decline in fucking corporate profits.
  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @02:37PM (#44646525)

    Perhaps it is the google translation but I don't understand the logic in the point being made by TFA.

    I agree the world is better off without TPM or anything like it because it becomes too cheap and easy for opressive regimes to lock down computation to only approved operating systems modified to constantly monitor and snitch on the end users activities. There is also risk of PCs turning into lockdown hell that is smart phones and tablets.

    Real world "secure boot" benefits to end users are questionable at best. With physical access all bets are off and an attacker could just as easily replace a motherboard as they could a disk drive.

    The "freedom" arguments seem to be logically separate from trust argument being made..and this is the problem I don't understand how TPM negativly impacts trust in a vendor/OS.

    It seems to me whether the operating system is booted secure or insecure you are still very much at the mercy of the underlying OS not to do shit behind your back contrary to your interests. This requires trust in the vendor and trust in the legal regime the vendor is bound by force to operate.

    If you want to say MS is not trustworthy because of NSA fine. If you want to say MS is not trustworthy because it is Microsoft fine... But the TPM argument...I simply don't see the connection.

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