January 31, 2003 4:30 PM PST

Microsoft opens Windows for U.K.

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The United Kingdom is the latest country to join a Microsoft program that lets international governments see the otherwise secret source code underlying Windows.

Microsoft unveiled the Government Security Program two weeks ago as a way to address concerns various governments have about the security of its Windows operating system. The U.K. government announced its participation Friday.

The program, widely viewed as Microsoft's response to the complete openness of the open-source movement, already includes Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as members.

"Partnership agreements such as the one I have signed today with Microsoft are key to the risk management of the national information infrastructure," said Andrew Pinder, central sponsor for information assurance for the U.K. government. The move will let the government examine Windows' security and help it influence future Microsoft products, the government said in a statement.

The U.K. government will seek similar agreements with other software companies, it added.

Microsoft has criticized the open-source movement, a community of developers behind the Linux operating system and several other projects that compete with Microsoft software. But one advantage the open-source community has over the Redmond, Wash.-based company is that suspicious parties may see exactly what's going on in the software it produces.

Security problems have plagued Microsoft to the point where research firm Gartner has recommended against using some packages. Providing access to Microsoft programmers could allay concerns that there are other, undisclosed vulnerabilities lurking within the secret confines of the Windows source code.

Under Microsoft's new program, governments may visit Microsoft's campus, see the millions of lines of source code that make up Windows, run analysis tools on the source code and build versions of Windows for themselves from the raw materials. Under the program, governments will be able to see source code for Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003 and CE.

The Government Security Program was the brainchild of Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief technical officer of advanced strategies and policy, who was responding to government requests for more information access, Microsoft has said.

Linux and open-source software have encroached on Microsoft in Peru and Germany, among other countries.

 

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