Skip to main content

Top Microsoft lawyer slams government for ‘stockpiling’ vulnerabilities

Image used with permission by copyright holder
As IT departments around the world are still reeling from the weekend’s spate of ransomware attacks, Microsoft’s head legal counsel has slammed the United States government for “stockpiling” vulnerabilities.

In a blog post, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith criticized the NSA for collecting and storing zero-days that it could lose control of. That appears to be exactly what happened this past weekend when the WannaCry ransomware was unleashed on companies like FedEx, NHS hospitals in the United Kingdom, car manufacturers, and telcos. The malware is believed to have been stolen by a mysterious hacker group called the Shadow Brokers and leaked online.

Smith said this case and the recent case around WikiLeaks publishing details of hacking tools and vulnerabilities used by the CIA are causing “widespread damage”.

“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen,” he said. “And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today — nation-state action and organized criminal action.”

The culprits behind the attacks remain unknown. On Monday morning, businesses returned to work with apprehension as their IT departments were still assessing the damage. Staff in NHS hospitals in the U.K. were advised to not log in to their computers this morning as it was still awaiting a new antivirus installation.

The global incident should be a “wake-up call” to governments, Smith said in the blog post, which pulled no punches. Smith suggested that governments need to treat malware with the same rules as physical weapons and the effect they can have on ordinary people. In the case of hospitals attacked by WannaCry, there were reports of some important patients’ procedures being postponed.

Smith went on to reiterate Microsoft’s call for a “Digital Geneva Convention” to regulate how governments handle zero-days, requiring them to disclose these vulnerabilities to vendors so they can be patched promptly.

“We should take from this recent attack a renewed determination for more urgent collective action. We need the tech sector, customers, and governments to work together to protect against cybersecurity attacks.”

Editors' Recommendations

Jonathan Keane
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jonathan is a freelance technology journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. He's previously written for publications and sites…
This Alienware gaming PC with an RTX 4090, 64GB of RAM is $1,000 off
Alienware Aurora R15 placed at an angle on a table.

Dell is consistently a great place to check for gaming PC deals and that’s certainly the case today. If you want a high-end gaming rig for less, you can currently buy the Alienware Aurora R15 gaming desktop for $2,900 instead of $3,900. The $1,000 saving is particularly sweet when you bear in mind that this is a truly high-end gaming PC packed with all the latest hardware. If you’re keen to know more, check out what we have to say about it below or you can simply hit the button below to go straight to the deal.

Why you should buy the Alienware Aurora R15 gaming desktop
Alienware makes some of the best gaming PCs around and the Alienware Aurora R15 gaming desktop is a perfect representation of that. It’s packed with the latest hardware. That includes an AMD Ryzen 9 7900X processor, 64GB of memory and 2TB of M.2 SSD storage. It’s great to see so much RAM with many gaming PCs still sticking with 32GB when 64GB really does set you up for the long term. Similarly, the large amount of fast storage is perfect for ensuring you won’t run out of room any time soon even when handling large installs like Call of Duty: Warzone or Hogwarts Legacy.

Read more
4 CPUs you should buy instead of the Ryzen 7 7800X3D
AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D sitting on a motherboard.

The Ryzen 7 7800X3D is one of the best gaming processors you can buy, and it's easy to see why. It's easily the fastest gaming CPU on the market, it's reasonably priced, and it's available on a platform that AMD says it will support for several years. But it's not the right chip for everyone.

Although the Ryzen 7 7800X3D ticks all the right boxes, there are several alternatives available. Some are cheaper while still offering great performance, while others are more powerful in applications outside of gaming. The Ryzen 7 7800X3D is a great CPU, but if you want to do a little more shopping, these are the other processors you should consider.
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D

Read more
Even the new mid-tier Snapdragon X Plus beats Apple’s M3
A photo of the Snapdragon X Plus CPU in the die

You might have already heard of the Snapdragon X Elite, the upcoming chips from Qualcomm that everyone's excited about. They're not out yet, but Qualcomm is already announcing another configuration to live alongside it: the Snapdragon X Plus.

The Snapdragon X Plus is pretty similar to the flagship Snapdragon X Elite in terms of everyday performance but, as a new chip tier, aims to bring AI capabilities to a wider portfolio of ARM-powered laptops. To be clear, though, this one is a step down from the flagship Snapdragon X Elite, in the same way that an Intel Core Ultra 7 is a step down from Core Ultra 9.

Read more