Threat Level Thursday: Microsoft Fights on Multiple Fronts, Cash Influx, and the NSA's Chokehold
In this week's Threat Level Thursday we take a look at Microsoft (twice), the influx of cybersecurity funding, and of course, our friendly neighborhood watchman, the NSA.
Microsoft vs. The United States
It wasn't too long ago that we took a look at Microsoft's ongoing dispute with the U.S. government over releasing private customer data abroad to aid a drug case in the United States. The problem? The emails are stored in Ireland, and Microsoft said that's out of U.S. jurisdiction.
Lawyers from Microsoft and other telecom firms took to Washington earlier this week where they discussed the Stored Communications Act. While the case is still pending, most involved say that the case will likely be dragged out due to the complexity of the issue and the necessity to deal with decades-old laws.
"I think we're going to end up in all likelihood being stuck in this place where the government is going to face very real problems in getting data abroad," said Verizon lawyer Michael Vatis from Steptoe & Johnson. "Congress is going to be unwilling to act, because Congress can't act on anything right now. This is probably going to fester for a while."
China vs. Microsoft
Microsoft's international woes, however, don't stop there. The tech giant is now facing intense allegations from China concerning "monopolistic behavior." The world's second-largest economy has apparently been conducting surprise visits to Microsoft offices as a result of complaints from businesses that Windows and Office products have been packaged in a way that violates a 2008 Chinese anti-monopoly law.
"Microsoft complies with the laws and regulations of every market in which we operate around the world and we have industry leading monitoring and enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure this,'' Microsoft said Tuesday. "Our business practices in China are designed to be compliant with Chinese law."
What does this mean in terms of cybersecurity? Increased scrutiny from a country like China only undermines tech firms around the world when it comes to information dissemination. China is already a bullseye for those looking at tech censorship, and with cases around the world getting intertwined, there's a chance certain cybersecurity measures (such as sharing information between countries, aka the Ireland case mentioned above) could be swept under the rug. We'll simply have to see how serious China is about this, or whether it's another small stab in response to cyber espionage accusations.
Venture Capitalists Pump Cash into Cybersecurity
If cybersecurity already isn't a front-page issue, the amount of money rushing into the sector should make it important enough on its own. According to financial data provider PrivCo, infant cybersecurity startups will receive an estimated $788 million this year -- a 74 percent increase from last year's $452 million. How effective all the cash will be remains to be seen, but data breaches like the Target fiasco have put all sectors of the economy on the cyber edge.
The NSA's Choking Cybersecurity
We all know the surveillance debate: balancing protection with privacy. We also know that most of the world isn't happy with big brother tactics that have stolen the spotlight ever since the Edward Snowden revelations. What's interesting to note, however, is that many, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, feel that the U.S. has actually weakened cybersecurity with its efforts. The crux of the argument? That the closed off, non-transparent methods of the NSA have actually forced the data dissemination market to close itself off in fear. Can you blame them? Let us know in the comments section below.
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