The National Security Agency recently discovered a major flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system — one that could potentially expose computer users to significant breaches or surveillance — and alerted the firm of the problem rather than turn it into a hacking weapon, according to people familiar with the matter.
According to Ellen Nakishima for the Washington Post:
The flaw affects Windows 10 users, the largest user base Microsoft currently has. The vulnerability could have been weaponized by the NSA, as so many others have been. The agency has consistently withheld knowledge of vulnerabilities from affected companies until the exploits have outlived their uselessness.
Microsoft was not happy. It released a long statement decrying the Intelligence Community’s refusal to completely participate in the Vulnerability Equities Process.
Companies like Microsoft and Adobe use digital signatures to stamp software as authentic. This helps to prevent malware infections that might try to disguise themselves as legitimate. The NSA discovered an error in the Microsoft code that verifies those signatures, potentially enabling a hacker to forge the signature and install spyware or ransomware on a computer.
Microsoft’s patch will have been issued by the time you read this.