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Cryptome’s 24-hour Blackout

February 26, 2010

Microsoft’s Global Criminal Compliance Handbook is a 22-page document that outlines the universe of services that Microsoft provides and details the digital footprints that users leave in the sands of the Microsoft servers. The document, dated March 2008, was intended “for law enforcement only” and reads, “No part of this handout may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the written permission of Microsoft Corporation.”

When Cryptome.org published the MSGCC Handbook, Microsoft contacted the host of Cryptome to have the specific file taken down. They claimed that this was a copyright violation. The host, Network Solutions, responded by asking website owner John Young to — pretty-please — take down the document.

Young e-mailed replied to his host 23 Feb at 7:30 p.m.

The Microsoft document provides important information for the public to understand how Microsoft violates the trust placed in it by customers to protect their privacy and confidentiality of personal data and usage of Microsoft products.”

Microsoft is improperly using copyright violation claim to conceal this violation of customer trust, a purpose not intended nor supported by copyright law.

The document will not be removed.

Sincerely,

John Young
Cryptome.org

Network Solutions responded by what can only be called  “bitch slapping” Cryptome.org “with a large trout” with a security hold on the server and domain.

Network Solutions’ lawyers:

Please note that if you wish to challenge the claim of copyright infringement you will need to submit a Counter-Notification in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “DMCA”). Specifically, you will need to comply with page 25, Section (3) Contents of a Counter Notification. I have attached a copy of the DMCA for your convenience.

Also, I would like to make you aware that in accordance with the DMCA, upon receipt of a Counter-Notification from you, Network Solutions will disable your site for “not less than 10 days, nor more than 14 business days following receipt of the Counter Notification. During this time, the complaining party must initiate litigation. In the event that Network Solutions does not receive notice of litigation within the allotted time frame, your site will be reactivated.

In order to target the file Microsoft wanted deleted, the entire domain was removed. Cryptome.org, after ten years was shut down, and within hours WikiLeaks had offered to host them and news was spreading that somehow Microsoft had the power to shut down websites it doesn’t like, as if for punitive reasons. The document itself was already on the loose, being replicated and examined by cybersecurity privacy geeks like me. The act of targeting, and shutting down, Cryptome.org, only brought attention to the story. Microsoft could feel the heat. Microsoft lawyers emailed Network Solutions and informed them they were withdrawing the complaint.

While Microsoft has a good faith belief that the distribution of the file that was made available at that address infringes Microsoft’s copyrights, it was not Microsoft’s intention that the takedown request result in the disablement of web acess to the entire cryptome.org website on which the file was made available.

Accordingly, on behalf of Microsoft, I am hereby withdrawing the takedown request and asking that Network Solutions restore internet access to cryptome.org as soon as possible.

Well, shucks, it was all just a misunderstanding! Network Solutions has a particular policy which says something to the effect of: if Microsoft asks us to take down a file, we ask the client to take it down, and if Microsoft is willing to sue us, we just take down the clients entire website. At least the website host isn’t pilfering through the directories of Cryptome.org, but the action of removing the domain entirely completely blew up in Microsoft’s face. It was as if Network Solutions saved Crytome.org by shutting it down. The outrage it caused would have become political if Microsoft hadn’t stepped in and corrected the situation before the next news cycle.

So, after all that, what did the document say? With Cryptome restored, they have published the correspondences I have quoted, and, more importantly, the Microsoft Global Criminal Compliance Handbook is now accessible through its now infamous original URL. I have downloaded and read it, and I don’t find it to be particularly surprising or even that troubling. It seems like a variety of proprietary secrets are revealed but nothing sophisticated is elaborated upon.

And the 22-page document ends with a note of legal comfort.

Subpoena required to Disclose
Basic subscriber information includes name, address, length of service (start date), screen names, other email accounts, IP address/IP logs/Usage logs, billing information, content (other than e-mail, such as in Windows Live Spaces and MSN Groups) and e-mail content more than 180 days old

Court orders are required for the rest of the customer’s profile
Court orders … will compel disclosure of all of the basic subscriber information available under a subpoena plus the e-mail address book, Messenger contact lists, the rest of a customer’s profile not already listed above, internet usage logs (e.g. WEBTV or MSN Internet Access), and e-mail header information (to/from) excluding subject line.

Search warrants are required for contents.
A search warrant … is the only means to compel the disclosure of e-mails, including subject line, in electronic storage 180 days or less

What the document does not say is the government is constantly employing Microsoft systems to spy on you. It simply is not as scary as you would expect a “banned” document to be. It’s boring, really. The only reason it has any negative light on it is that it caused the shutdown of an entire website. Whenever there is that kind of censorship it empowers the censored data. It makes more out of it than there is. What makes this document so secretive that it needs to be “leaked” — and that the whistleblower site needs to be shut down!?

The Global Criminal Compliance Handbook is, as I gauge it today, much ado about nothing. The powers Microsoft offers law enforcement is no more capability than what you would expect from a typical system administrator. The fact that this leaked and hotly contested document states that they do require subpoenas, court orders, and search warrants, is actually comforting. It could have said to law enforcement, “Here’s the keys, make yourselves at home!”

Update:

Wired magazine Whistleblower Site Back After Microsoft Withdraws Complaint

The simplest lesson here is that none of the pixels published over this incident would have been necessary if Microsoft had just published this document in the first place, which few people would have ever bothered to go read. Instead, these companies prefer to worry about the sensitivities of corporate-ass-covering lawyers and law enforcement agencies instead of putting their users and transparency first.

Cryptome.org also has leaked documents from MySpace, Facebook, Skype, and others.

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