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Microsoft encrypts Internet traffic after NSA spying

Microsoft is the latest tech firm to eye stronger encryption in the face of NSA spying. According to The Washington Post, recent revelations about the agency reportedly intercepting data centre traffic on the networks of Yahoo and Google have spurred Redmond into action.

"Microsoft executives are meeting this week to decide what encryption initiatives to deploy and how quickly," the Post said, citing people with direct knowledge of Microsoft's plans.

The paper also pointed to a statement from Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith, at a recent shareholders meeting. "We're focused on engineering improvements that will further strengthen security," he said, "including strengthening security against snooping by governments."

It's not clear that the NSA did, in fact, spy on Microsoft via a surveillance project known as MUSCULAR, which was first reported by the Post in October. The existence of the program was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and it reportedly monitors transmissions between the data centres of Internet giants Yahoo and Google without their permission.

MUSCULAR operates in conjunction with Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which "are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants," the paper said.

Google has already condemned MUSCULAR, with Eric Schmidt calling it "outrageous," if true. Yahoo, meanwhile, recently took steps to encrypt all of its products, while Twitter deployed a new form of security known as perfect forward secrecy.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Last week, however, it announced the upcoming release of Office 365 Message Encryption, which will let businesses send encrypted emails to people outside their companies.

"No matter what the, Yahoo, Gmail, Exchange Server, Lotus Notes, GroupWise, Squirrel Mail, you name it-you can send sensitive business communications with an additional level of protection against unauthorized access," Redmond said.

This latest Snowden leak comes several months after The Guardian accused Microsoft of "helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption," something Redmond refuted.

The Guardian story was based on documents from Snowden and suggested that Microsoft worked with the NSA to allow the agency easier access to user data.