The investigation into the illegal disclosure of blueprints for some versions of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows software has turned to a small technology company in Silicon Valley that works closely with Microsoft.
Self-appointed sleuths eager to solve one of the technology industry’s most intriguing mysteries found references inside files accompanying the leaked Windows blueprints indicating that Mainsoft Corp. of San Jose had been working with the computer code before it began circulating on the Internet.
Microsoft has provided Mainsoft access to parts of its Windows blueprints since at least 1994 under conditions that generally prohibited them from disclosing them to others. Mainsoft helps businesses convert their customized Windows programs to run on rival operating systems, such as Unix.
References in the accompanying files included the e-mail address for Mainsoft’s technology director, Eyal Alaluf, and pointed to distinct e-mail messages. In a statement Friday, Mainsoft Chairman Mike Gullard pledged to cooperate fully with Microsoft and U.S. authorities investigating the breach.
“Mainsoft takes Microsoft’s and all our customers’ security matters seriously, and we recognize the gravity of the situation,” Gullard said. The company declined further comment.
Microsoft confirmed late Thursday that some pieces of its tightly guarded blueprints for Windows 2000 and Windows NT were circulating freely on the Internet. Experts expressed concern that hackers reviewing the software code could discover new ways to attack computers running some versions of Windows. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla said the company had asked the FBI to investigate but declined to discuss Microsoft’s relationship with Mainsoft. He said Microsoft was confident the Windows blueprints weren’t stolen from its own computer network.
The digital fingerprints linking the source code back to Mainsoft were part of a so-called core dump, which is created on some computers for diagnostic purposes in the event of a major failure. Such files are routinely examined by computer investigators.
“If someone was doctoring this, they did quite a good job,” said Chris Wysopal, director of research and development for AtStake Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.
Microsoft has previously shared parts of its source code with some companies, U.S. agencies, foreign governments and universities under tight restrictions that prevent such organizations from making it publicly available.