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[] NYT 15.01.03: Microsoft to Give Governments Access to Code,

January 15, 2003
Microsoft to Give Governments Access to Code

To try to slow the acceptance of the Linux operating system by governments 
abroad, Microsoft is announcing today that it will allow most governments 
to study the programming code of its Windows systems. Under the program, 
governments will also be allowed to plug their security features instead of 
Microsoft's technology into Windows.

More than two dozen countries, including China and Germany, are encouraging 
agencies to use "open source" software ? developed by programmers who 
distribute the code without charge and donate their labor to debug and 
modify the software cooperatively. The best-known of the open source 
projects is GNU Linux, an operating system that Microsoft regards as the 
leading competitive threat to Windows.

"Microsoft is doing this to combat Linux and open source," said Ted 
Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research.

One appeal of Linux is that developers have complete access to the 
underlying source code, whereas Microsoft has kept some Windows technology 
secret. That has made many governments leery of becoming too reliant on 
Microsoft technology, and it has been a marketing advantage for Linux.

The concern about Microsoft abroad has grown as the company has become more 
dominant and as more and more government operations, from the military to 
health services, rely on its software.

"The issue is how comfortable are governments depending on the technology 
of a United States company and Microsoft in particular," said Craig Mundie, 
a senior vice president at Microsoft. "As a technology platform, we want to 
be demonstrably neutral to national interests."

In the past, Microsoft has shared some source code ? the computer 
instructions rendered in a programming language that people can read, 
instead of binary code of 1's and 0's that machines process ? with selected 
governments. But Mr. Mundie said the new initiative, called the Government 
Security Program, represents "a substantial step beyond our previous efforts."

Under the program, 97 percent of the code to Windows desktop, Windows 
server and Windows CE hand-held software will be available to governments 
online for inspection and testing. To view the other 3 percent ? the most 
sensitive technology ? government representatives must come to Microsoft 
headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

Governments, under the initiative, will also be allowed to choose their own 
cryptography software and snap that code into software "sockets" in 
Windows. Governments can also control their own identification and 
authentication technology for privacy and security, and still run on Windows.

"Microsoft will partner with and trust the governments where we do 
business," Mr. Mundie said.

And abroad, there have been steady reports and rumors that Microsoft kept a 
software "back door" in Windows that it would allow tapping by United 
States government agencies for national security or espionage purposes. 
"This should go a long, long way," Mr. Mundie said, "toward eliminating the 
popular speculation in many countries that has been used to attack Microsoft."

Microsoft expects that perhaps 60 foreign governments and international 
agencies will eventually join its government security program. The first to 
join were Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the 
company is negotiating with 20 other groups.

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