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_NSAKEY was a variable identified in Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 5 in 1999 . Andrew Fernandes, a specialist at the Cryptonym Corporation, Morrisville , North Carolina, is considered the discoverer. However, the British expert Nicko van Someren made an initial observation two years earlier.

The Chaos Computer Club issued a press release on September 3, 1999 - without having analyzed it in depth - that the key is obviously intended for use by the National Security Agency (NSA) and that it is protected by the encryption method in the CryptoAPI of the operating system from Microsoft can handle.

Also in 1999 it became known that the large software company Lotus had built a back door into its Notes system for the NSA . In a study commissioned by the European Parliament, the Parisian scientist Franck Leprevost and the German MEP Ilka Schröder ( Alliance 90 / The Greens ) collaborated. Schröder judged: "The US giants Microsoft, Netscape and Lotus are already equipping their software for export in such a way that they enable the US secret service to access e-mails."

Microsoft immediately denied the allegations. The PC world wrote about the key: "There is definitely one thing it is not: a built-in back door for eavesdropping."

Microsoft's position on variable names is as follows:

“This is simply an unfortunate name. The NSA performs the technical review for all US cryptographic export requests. The keys in question are the ones that allow us to ensure compliance with the NSA's technical review. Therefore, they came to be known within Microsoft as "the NSA keys", and this was used as a variable name for one of the keys. However, Microsoft holds these keys and does not share them with anyone, including the NSA. "

- Microsoft Security Advisor

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Andrew Fernandes: Microsoft, the NSA, and You ( Memento of November 27, 1999 in the Internet Archive ) (1999) (English)
  2. Washington's Blog: NSA Built Back Door In All Windows Software by 1999 , June 7, 2013 (English)
  3. Chaos Computer Club : Press release of September 3, 1999 ( Memento of November 28, 1999 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Duncan Campbell : Only NSA can listen, so that's OK ( Memento from April 30, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) , Heise online , June 1, 1999
  5. Herbert Winkler: The suspicion remains: Does Microsoft support the US secret service? , Spiegel Online , February 20, 2000
  6. ^ Christian Persson: Microsoft denies aid to espionage. In: Heise online . September 5, 1999.
  7. The NSA Key: Subtle Revenge from Bill Gates? , PC world
  8. There is no "Back Door" in Windows. In: Microsoft Security Advisor. Microsoft, September 7, 1999, accessed February 19, 2020 .