Microsoft does not encrypt the initial crash reports which include both those that prompt the user before they’re sent as well as others that do not. Instead, they’re transmitted to Microsoft’s servers “in the clear,” or over standard HTTP connections. If a hacker or intelligence agency can insert themselves into the traffic stream, they can pluck out the crash reports for analysis without worrying about having to crack encryption.
Windows’ error- and crash-reporting system sends a wealth of data unencrypted and in the clear, information that eavesdropping hackers or state security agencies can use to refine and pinpoint their attacks, a researcher said. Not coincidentally, recently the popular German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) collects Windows crash reports from its global wiretaps to sniff out details of targeted PCs, including the installed software and operating systems, down to the version numbers and whether the programs or OSes have been patched; application and operating system crashes that signal vulnerabilities that could be exploited with malware; and even the devices and peripherals that have been plugged into the computers.
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