Suddenly, I'm feeling much better about Microsoft.One of the features in the upcoming Windows Vista operating system is a drive encryption package called BitLocker. Click here for preliminary documentation. Now, I've had quite a bit of experience with Microsoft security features and failures in the past, and didn't really investigate the new system, especially since virtually all of my home systems are now Linux-based except for one trusty old Windows 2000 box I use to drive my Lexmark printer.
It didn't help matters when this BBC report was published, strongly hinting that Microsoft was in cahoots with the British government to make sure that law enforcement agencies could bypass BitLocker via a back door. My crypto experience tells me that when there's a back door, people other than those intended will find it.
My opinion changed sharply when I discovered that Niels Ferguson was working for Microsoft. Perhaps you don't know this name, but security people do. Niels is a brilliant cryptographer whom I worked with briefly during his association with Bruce Schneier's Counterpane. Niels, among other things, was one of the designers of the Twofish block cipher. I am as certain as I can be that any project with which Niels is associated will not have a back door. (That's Niels in the photo. I doubt if he even remembers me, from the technically good but sales-poor LockStar.)
And, as expected, Niels has said so himself on the MSDN blog for the project. A quote: "Back doors are simply not acceptable. Besides, they wouldn't find anybody on this team willing to implement and test the back door."
Maybe the early buzz is right, after all. Maybe Windows Vista won't suck.