China next to get access to Microsoft source code

China has signed up to participate in Microsoft Corp.'s new Government Security Program (GSP), giving the Chinese government access to the source code of Windows operating system software, Microsoft said in a statement today.

The agreement was signed by Microsoft and the China Information Technology Security Certification Center. Chinese President Jiang Zemin was briefed on the GSP today by Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, who is visiting China, Microsoft said.

The company announced its GSP initiative last month in a bid to allay concerns about the security of its software (see story). The GSP is open to governments and international organizations. GSP participants receive access to the source code and technical information of several versions of Windows software needed to conduct security reviews of the products, the software maker said.

Russia, the U.K. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have already signed up to participate in the GSP, and Microsoft is in talks with more than 30 countries, territories and organizations about the program.

Governments signing up for the security program will be able to build systems that offer the high levels of security required for national security, Microsoft has said. However, government users won't be allowed to make modifications to the code or compile the source code into Windows programs themselves, according to Microsoft.

The GSP is also seen as a move in Microsoft's battle against open-source software, primarily the Linux operating system, edging into government administration all around the globe. An open-source license allows users to access and modify the source code. Government users in Finland, Germany, France, Taiwan and the Philippines, among other countries, have already adopted open-source software or are looking into doing so.

Participation in the GSP is free. The program covers current versions, service packs and beta releases of Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows CE. In addition, government IT professionals can visit Microsoft headquarters to review Windows development and meet with Microsoft staff. Online access to the source code is secured by smart cards.

Microsoft sees the GSP as an important part of its Trustworthy Computing initiative, an effort announced by Gates last year to improve the security of its software.

Microsoft shares Windows code with governments, companies and educational institutions under various programs that are part of its Shared Source Initiative announced in 2001. The GSP is different in that Microsoft sees it as a partnership with a country or international organization and that it does not require a country or organization to be a Microsoft customer in order to participate.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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