Last week, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway surprised many when she made some comments about our many appliances being used as surveillance tools. Speaking with Bergen County Record columnist Mike Kelly, Conway explained that "there are many ways to surveil each other … You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways.” Later on, she also mentioned "“microwaves that turn into cameras,” adding that “we know this is a fact of modern life” (via Snopes).
It looks like the interesting remark catched the attention of some Microsoft employees, who took it very seriously… or not. Microsoft employee Larry Osterman, a self-described "computer security nerd" shared a picture of one of the microwaves at Microsoft on Twitter. And as you can see, some security-conscious employees added a sticker on it to remind everyone to be careful when standing in front of it.
— Larry Osterman (@osterman) March 16, 2017
The security notice reads:
Please do not handle MBI or HBI information near this microwave. The camera in this microwave may have been compromised by a third party. For more information, please contact Kellyanne on the Privacy team.
The "notice" is official looking, branded to look like other common notices from Microsoft's Real Estate & Facilities (RE&F) operations, even using their color scheme.
Since Osterman tweeted the picture, other Microsoft employees poked fun at Conway's security remarks. Who knew that microwaves could be a security concern in company's offices?
I see what this is - it is a ploy to cut tsa budget. No need for fancy detectors, a microwave would do.
— Usman Anwer (@uanwer) March 17, 2017
Well, to be fair, Conway had a point: it's true that connected appliances using out-of-date software can be hacked and used for surveillance. Actually, a company called Shodan has created a search engine for Internet-connected (and often insecure) devices including refrigerators, printers, TVs but also buildings and even power plants. That being said, your microwave is probably safe, especially if it's not connected to the Internet.
As a global company with a big focus on productivity and enterprise, Microsoft obviously takes security very seriously. However, it's nice to see that its employees can have some fun, too!