The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Microsoft code for duo

New Delhi, Jan. 27: Microsoft Corp, the world’s most valuable company, has decided to open its source code to two Indian agencies — Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) — for some strategic projects.

The source code is the software giant’s closely guarded blueprints for programs.

The decision is part of a worldwide initiative that the software giant has taken to ward off threats from open source competitor Linux, which has been trying to snap up lucrative government contracts.

Microsoft is arguably the largest supplier of software to governments.

Early this month, Microsoft had signed a deal with Russian defence authorities under which it opened its source code.

Under the Government Security Program, Microsoft will permit governments and their agencies to examine its source code to enhance the security of their software, used for tasks like tracking personal data, taxes and ensuring national security.

Microsoft has felt threatened by proponents of Linux who have sewn up deals with the governments of West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, threatening to undermine its hegemony over government contracts for software.

Microsoft officials in India refused to name the organisations with whom it is ready to share the source code.

A Microsoft spokesperson said: “We engage in discussions with governments worldwide on a host of important issues. This includes discussing with government representatives how access to source code and other technical information may be of help to them in addressing their IT-security concerns.”

“It will be up to each government to announce their participation and Microsoft will honour their confidentiality. Beyond that, we cannot comment on the specifics of those discussions or pending Government Security Program agreements,” Microsoft said in a written reply.

Sources in the ministry of communications and information technology said: “Two organisations from India have already approached Microsoft and they are in advanced stage of discussions with the company to share the source code.”

Microsoft had recently announced that Russia and Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) will currently participate in the program. Additionally, the software company is in discussions with 20 countries, territories and organisations about their interest in the program.

“National governments and international organisations face more serious security threats than other technology consumers. Microsoft recognises that in matters ranging from national defence to protection of citizens’ personal data, public agencies must place security at the forefront of their information-technology requirements,” Microsoft said.

“GSP is one integral element in Microsoft’s efforts to address the unique security requirements of governments and international organisations throughout the world -- providing program participants no-fee access to Windows source code and technical information they need to be confident in the security of the Windows platform, and fostering partnership between Microsoft and governments through increased interaction opportunities and customised guidance on projects identified by program participants,” the software company claimed in a written reply.

The GSP provides program participants access to source code for the most current versions, beta releases and service packs of Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows CE.

Specific products for these platforms include Personal, Professional, Server, Advanced Server and Datacenter versions, as well as both the x86 and IA64 builds for Windows XP.

Subject to certain requirements, including US export approval, GSP access may also include the CryptoAPI Software Development Kit, which provides cryptographic code implementations in source form.

Qualified governments interested in developing and implementing their own cryptographic modules, moreover, may obtain the Crypto Service Provider Development Kit.

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