Microsoft Encrypts OneDrive, Outlook to Thwart NSA

In a move that should be expected of all top-tier technology companies these days, Microsoft has announced that its OneDrive and Outlook.com cloud services will automatically encrypt users data from here on out.

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Photo: Gil C / Shutterstock

In a blog post, VP of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group Matt Thomlinson said the company has been working tirelessly to get the project off the ground ever since the leaks hit the wire last year.

Microsoft has pulled no punches as of late about the fact that it has made the move in direct response to NSA spying tactics, and claims its customers will always come before the government in relation to personal data privacy.

Supporting TLS encryption, the new standard promises end-to-end security which should make it increasingly difficult for NSA snoops to read through the information contained within a specific email.

“Our goal is to provide even greater protection for data across all the great Microsoft services you use and depend on every day,” Thomlinson wrote. “This effort also helps us reinforce that governments use appropriate legal processes, not technical brute force, if they want access to that data.”

While the effort is certainly a move in the right direction, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the system only works if both ends of the transmission are participating in the handshake, which many servers on public sites still don’t have the capacity to do.

It could be months, even years before every Outlook outpost is fully updated to accommodate the new strategy, and until then anyone who relies on the email service as their main communication platform should remain wary until they’ve been assured by their sysadmin or network provider that both sides of the conversation have been properly silenced to the outside world.

Microsoft hopes to head the problem off by working closely with popular services who rely on Outlook as their backbone to transmit their customer’s whims to one another, claiming partnerships with Mail.ru, Deutsche Telekom, and Yandex have already accelerated the process to millions in the first few days of widespread implementation.

It’s no secret that Microsoft hasn’t been a fan of the NSA spying scandal, claiming that much of the damage done by the leaks wasn’t a loss of military intelligence, but rather the freshly cautious eye that many international entities will now have when considering the Redmond-based company for their business.

Without confidence that their data is secure, many conglomerates are looking elsewhere for their cloud security needs, and shrugging off old American storage standbys such as Microsoft, Cisco, and IBM. By removing their credibility as secure providers of petabytes, the NSA has effectively drained billions of dollars from the American economy, all in the name of some ‘greater good’ they still can’t point to even a year after the first set of documents hit the Guardian’s doorstep.

Along with TLS, OneDrive and Outlook will also support Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS), which is an alternative method of encryption which has proved popular recently as more and more classical methods of secrecy fall to NSA quantum decrypters every month.