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Microsoft Recall Delay Follows Security, Privacy Outcry

Microsoft pulls Recall just days ahead of launch, will have Windows Insider Program test first.

by Paul Shread June 14th, 2024

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June 13, 2024 may go down as one of the tougher days in Microsoft’s long history.

The day started with a report alleging that a vulnerability long neglected by Microsoft led to the SolarWinds software supply chain breach in 2021; was followed by a nearly three-hour hostile hearing on Capitol Hill over the software giant’s security failures that resulted in a massive hack by China of U.S. government email systems; and it ended late at night with the company’s announcement that it will delay the rollout of its Windows Recall screen recording feature that faced heavy criticism from cybersecurity researchers over the lack of security and data privacy controls built into Recall.

Microsoft President Brad Smith struck a conciliatory tone in his hearing with U.S. lawmakers and he outlined plans to improve security at the company, but the bungled launch of Recall – coming after the company had already pledged at least twice to improve security – shows that the software and cloud technology giant has a long way to go to make good on those pledges.

Recall Controversy Took Off After a Report on The Cyber Express

Calls to overhaul Recall’s security and privacy features started with the work of security researcher Kevin Beaumont, who called the lack of controls the “dumbest cybersecurity move in a decade.” Beaumont’s work demonstrating Recall’s security holes was first reported in a Cyber Express article that landed on the front page of tech news aggregator Slashdot, where it received 140 comments, and the story took off from there, creating something of a PR nightmare for Microsoft.

Further proofs supporting Beaumont’s work emerged, and Microsoft belatedly tried to address the security and privacy concerns, but apparently not in time for the release of Copilot+ PCs planned for June 18.

In a blog post update late on June 13, Microsoft said Recall will now become “a preview available first in the Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks. Following receiving feedback on Recall from our Windows Insider Community, as we typically do, we plan to make Recall (preview) available for all Copilot+ PCs coming soon.

“We are adjusting the release model for Recall to leverage the expertise of the Windows Insider community to ensure the experience meets our high standards for quality and security.”

Beaumont Welcomes Microsoft Recall Delay, Awaits Changes

In a post on a Mastodon cybersecurity instance, Beaumont welcomed the Microsoft Recall delay.

“Good on Microsoft for finally reaching a sane conclusion,” he wrote. “When it does appear in preview channels, privacy and security researchers need to keep a close eye on what Microsoft are doing with the feature.

“Microsoft tried developing this feature in secret in a way which tried to avoid scrutiny. Thank you to everyone who stood up.”

Beaumont said it’s his understanding that Recall was developed without input from security and privacy staff.

“I’ve also been told Microsoft security and privacy staff weren’t provided Recall, as the feature wasn’t made available broadly internally either,” he said.

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