By Michael Biesecker By The Associated PressThe U.S. government accused Microsoft Corp. of threatening employees with termination because they refused to cooperate in an investigation of an email program used to infect PCs with malware that took advantage of weaknesses in its network security.
Microsoft said in a statement Friday that it has never fired anyone for cooperating with the federal government and has an unwavering commitment to civil liberties.
The FBI, which is leading the probe, accused Microsoft of failing to report that it had identified “a substantial number of malicious software programs and code snippets” that would “infect” more than 1.6 million computers in late 2013 and early 2014, the statement said.
It said the malware was designed to allow the criminal to bypass Microsoft’s firewall, which encrypts all traffic on a computer, including email, instant messaging and chat.
The agency said that after it became aware of the malware in late 2014, Microsoft implemented an emergency patch that protected more than 5 million computers.
The patch is still in use today, Microsoft said.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the statement, the company said it will continue to cooperate and defend against the government’s requests.
It also said it is cooperating with an ongoing investigation by the U.K. Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The Office of Intelligence and Analysis has requested access to Microsoft’s network and data, as well as its servers, the report said.
The government has requested that Microsoft provide any information it has on the malware and other alleged evidence.
The government has asked that Microsoft pay an unspecified amount for providing information and technology to the investigation.
The investigation, which began in December 2014, is focused on Microsoft’s Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite, and is not linked to the hacking of the U-2 spy plane.
The indictment said Microsoft provided the FBI with a list of software vulnerabilities that could be exploited by criminals to steal data and compromise networks.
It alleged that Microsoft failed to notify employees that it knew about those vulnerabilities and instead used them to help criminals evade detection, and that Microsoft “refused to share” information about them with the FBI.
The report said the FBI’s investigation showed Microsoft failed in its obligation to notify and notify employees of the vulnerabilities, which included the vulnerability in Microsoft Office for Mac that was disclosed in April.
Microsoft has previously said it did not release the list of vulnerabilities.
The company said in February that it was aware of more than 300 vulnerabilities, including the one in Office for Windows.
The Justice Department said that it believed the list included a number of “malware-infected” versions of Microsoft Office.
It did not say how many of those had been identified by the FBI, or the number of affected computers.
Microsoft and other companies that work with the government have come under fire in recent years for their use of encryption to protect their network traffic, including when it comes to cloud-based applications.
That practice has been criticized as a weakness that could allow criminals to bypass anti-virus and anti-malware protections and steal data.