The Windows 11 official launch event took place on June 24, but the internet was already flooded with leaked Windows 11 ISO news on June 15. At first, the screenshots of Windows 11 appeared at Chinese site Baidu, and then the early build leak of Windows 11 ISO started revolving all over the internet. How does a tech giant like Microsoft let this massive leak happen? If Microsoft cannot handle its most important project’s privacy, how can we suppose that our data handed by them is secure?
There is no official announcement from Microsoft till now about how this leak took place. But Microsoft is issuing DMCA complaints to those sites that are distributing the leaked Windows 11 ISO. To have a closer look at how did Windows 11 leak, this blog presents some possible scenarios that could have led to this incident.
4 Possible Scenarios behind Windows 11 Leak
Different theories are rising related to Windows 11 leak. Some are considering it a marketing stunt, while others are considering it a serious security loophole. We have researched the possible scenarios that could have resulted in Windows 11 leak and come with the following 4 points:
1. Link to SolarWinds and Exchange Attacks
Microsoft has experienced significant cyber-attacks in the past couple of months. The prominent one is the SolarWinds attack that made thousands of global businesses, including government organizations and Microsoft its victim. The attackers even got access to Microsoft source code by gaining control of a few internal accounts. However, Microsoft later announced that the hackers just got access to view the code and the stolen source code had no impact on its products’ security.
After the SolarWinds attack, Microsoft experienced a second attack in 2021 on Microsoft Exchange Server. Four zero-day vulnerabilities were exploited by attackers from China. They deployed backdoors and continue to use them to conduct wide-scale malware attacks.
Microsoft is anxious to move on from these many cyberattacks. One hundred thousand corporate customers have spent significant amounts of money cleaning up the damage. Now the question arises, is the Microsoft codebase secure. Clearly, attackers managed to penetrate deep into the systems without being detected, so how can Microsoft be so sure about its recovery? Therefore, the recent cyber-attacks on Microsoft can be linked to the Windows 11 leak. There is no such clear evidence on it, but chances are there that it is a potential reason behind the leak.
2. Intentional Leak from Microsoft
There is a high possibility that Windows 11 was intentionally leaked by Microsoft to create the hype and gain the attention of users. Well, if this was Microsoft’s plan, then it seems to went perfectly. Windows 11 became a trending topic on the internet before its official release, and everyone started to explore what new offerings it is going to provide.
But why would a tech giant like Microsoft has to leak its OS when it can easily market it after the launch event? The possible answer could be the attention its competitors are gaining from users in the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Microsoft launched Windows 10, it was declared as the last Windows version. The possible reason was the growth of smartphones as the main computing devices and decreased use of PCs. The sales of computers dropped, while the sales of smartphones increased exponentially. So, that’s one possible reason why Microsoft decided to stop releasing new OS every two or three years.
But COVID-19 shifted things greatly. The demand for computers increased due to remote working and online studies. Chromebooks sales accelerated, while Apple also released its fastest-ever M1 chip for Macs. This possibly left Microsoft and its computer manufacturing partners in a miserable stage. So, that might have triggered the need for Windows 11 to bring market balance.
But since Windows 11 is mostly an improvement of UI and features-enhancement of Windows 10, so to bring solid market impact, Microsoft might have played the leaked Windows 11 ISO stunt. They have managed to gain attention on the internet, let users test out the leaked ISO, and also successfully shifted the attention hype from its competitors.
3. Insider Dishonestly
Microsoft is an ideal tech company to work in. From the diversified work environment to great salary, Microsoft employees experience both personal and professional growth. But not all employees have the same intention. Therefore, one possibility behind Windows 11 leak is that the employee(s) managed to steal the Windows 11 build version without getting caught and then sold/released it on the internet anonymously. Usually, tech companies ensure strict internal security measures, but there are always some chances of security loopholes.
4. Remote Working Vulnerabilities
COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the environment of remote working. Plenty of companies are running their businesses remotely. But remote working requires employees to have access to business-sensitive information from networks that are not that secure as the workplace networks. This is the reason that cyber-attacks are already rising since COVID-19. The chances that Windows 11 got leaked due to remote working vulnerabilities is quite rare, but still, it is one of the possibilities to consider.
Microsoft 11 leak is real, and Microsoft also agrees on it. But no one is answering how this huge mistake even occurred. One concerning element is that if Microsoft’s codebase is not secure, why should customers not consider its products may have hidden backdoors. Is every Windows and Office 365 user now vulnerable to privacy breaches, theft of investments, and ransomware? Everyone’s business is now susceptible to be shut down?
We now await to see how Microsoft responds to this leak.