As Donald Trump and the intelligence community desperately attempt to figure out where their leaks are coming from and how all of these hacks are occurring, I found a piece of news this week rather ironic. This was the news that a branch of the US Army, the Global Combat Support System branch of the U.S. Army (GCSS-Army), recently invested in buying nearly 10,000 Windows 10 based devices.
As reported by Softpedia News on March 24th 2017, “GCSS-Army is buying a total of 9,783 Getac F110 G3 rugged tablets with docking stations as part of an effort to “replace several aging and outdated Army management information systems across tactical logistics environments within the Army’s Active and Reserve components as well as the National Guard,” officials said in a press release today.” Softpedia reports the tablets are expected to become active duty by May 2017.
What I did not know until researching this article is that the news this week comes in conjunction with a much larger Federal directive to migrate nearly 4 million military devices/systems over to Windows 10 by the second quarter of 2017.
On February 17th 2016, Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, announced how “The Secretary of Defense has directed all U.S. DoD agencies to begin the rapid deployment of the Microsoft Windows 10 throughout their respective organizations for information systems currently utilizing Microsoft Operating Systems.” Going on to add that “Because the U.S. Department of Defense is a prime target of cyber criminals and one of the largest and most complex organizations in the world, its leaders know the importance of securing its baseline systems.”
— Army Cyber Command (@ARCYBER) March 8, 2016
All of this is ironic because, since the time the US Department of Defense first made this announcement, a series of leaks from inside the NSA and CIA has revealed that Microsoft and Windows 10 are completely vulnerable to hacking and have been pre-installed with various back doors. More specifically, dating back to the spring of 2016 there has been a Windows 10 zero-day out in the wild with the capability of hijacking any device running on the system. While Windows says it has since patched the flaw, it was not the first zero-day to exist and their patch came more than 11 months after the US military first started migrating all their systems over to Windows 10 in the first place.
Now that you understand this, you will understand why several countries around the world have already started to ban Windows and Microsoft for Government use dating back to 2014. As reported by Alternative Medi4 on November 18th 2016, less than 3 months after the hacking of the NSA, Russia’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov announced Russia’s intentions to abandon Microsoft as the country will begin to transfer all Government systems over to domestically manufactured hardware and software.
As Bogdan Popa of Softpedia News surmised at the time, Russia was making the transition because “Russian authorities believe that the country urgently needs protection from cyberattacks and thinks that software developed by American companies, such as Microsoft, could hide backdoors and bugs that could help other nations spy on their plans.” Peskov seemed to confirm these sentiments when he stated that “
Using foreign software is like giving up on our army,” adding that “It’s a matter of national security, not replacing foreign IT would be equivalent to dismissing the army.”
Russia’s decision to abandon Microsoft is not an isolated one, dating back to the 2014, following the release of leaked documents from NSA contractor Edward Snowden, China announced a ban of Microsoft Windows 8 from all Government systems – citing National Security. While Windows is still technically legal for civilian use in China, Microsoft has suffered tremendous private sector sales loss in the country as a result of this and all Windows systems remain banned from Government use in China to this day.
While some of Window’s problems are indubitably design flaws in their programing, I can not stress enough that most of the flaws in Microsoft’s systems are actually mandated by the United States Government. Dating back to the Apple court case of 2015, it is actually illegal for any company in the United States to completely secure their systems and the FBI has legally mandated US based companies to install back doors on every computer or device they produce. Before Apple’s case brought this issue to national prominence, companies like Microsoft had a long history of fully cooperating with US Government agencies to unlock their devices/products. Remember, Apple was only in court for refusing to allow the Government to access their devices in the first place.
For all the reasons mentioned above, it is kind of curious why the United States Government continues to use Microsoft systems. The President has confirmed that the NSA and CIA leaks were all real, meaning that if the CIA and NSA knew that Microsoft and therefore all US Government systems were wide open and completely vulnerable to exploitation from outside actors, why on Earth would the US Department of Defense and US Government continue to use Microsoft for everyday operations?
Moreover, now that Governments around the world are ditching Microsoft for national security purposes, why is the US Government doing the exact opposite and expanding its relationship with the company?
These are questions I certainly do not have the answer to, but from the outside it just does not make any sense. Donald Trump is calling on the US Government to investigate how/why all of these leaks are occurring from inside Government servers/systems, knowing full well that the US Government relies heavily upon Microsoft devices to store all their records.
Perhaps the answer isn’t really that complicated and is right there in front of them, literally built into the very systems they choose to deploy….