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[infowar.de] NYT 15.01.03: Microsoft to Give Governments Access to Code
January 15, 2003
Microsoft to Give Governments Access to Code
By STEVE LOHR
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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