[ISN] MS plays the security card in Gov shared source retread

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Jan 15 2003 - 22:54:24 PST

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    By John Lettice
    Posted: 15/01/2003
    Microsoft yesterday announced the Government Security Program, an
    initiative intended to provide governments and agencies with
    "controlled access... subject to certain licensing restrictions" to
    Microsoft source code. The announcement was accompanied by great
    amazement and astonishment in the public prints. Remarkably, this
    "unprecedented move" (Reuters) looks not entirely dissimilar to the
    Microsoft Government Shared Source Licensing Program, which has been
    available (to general disinterest) for some considerable time.
    So tell us why the GSP is not a respray into security livery, being
    spun to a ludicrous extent by the Redmond marketing machine. The
    earlier program, granted, has a more limited list of eligible
    countries, whereas the GSP is apparently aimed at everyone, aside from
    the usual suspects. But there are hedges to this that'll likely bring
    the numbers down. For example, a country's ability to participate will
    to some extent depend on that country's attitude to intellectual
    property, sniffs Microsoft.
    You could therefore see the GSP as providing Bill and the execs with a
    valuable carrot to induce change in attitudes to intellectual
    property. Russia is already signed up, as is NATO, and Craig Mundie
    says countries like Brazil, India and China are eligible. Of these,
    only Brazil is listed under the previous programme.
    Ah, we remember the times when the US would swipe European computer
    dealers selling DEC kit to the Soviet Union, fly them to the States
    and put them in prison for a very long time. But times change.
    Aside from eligibility, which would surely have broadened steadily
    under the New World Order anyway, and the liberal use of the S word,
    there seems little difference between the Government Shared Source
    Program and the Government Security Program. Companies, government
    agencies and educational institutions could already sign up to look at
    Microsoft source code, and one presumes that security would be one of
    the things they'd have in mind as they did so.
    Ah, but says Craig Mundie: "The program is not designed for government
    agencies at a state, or provincial, or local level. Nor is it aimed at
    government agencies that require source-code access for product
    support or development purposes unrelated to security matters. The
    needs of those agencies would likely be served best by the Shared
    Source Initiative program." It's therefore about who you are and what
    you intend.
    So you get kicked off the program if you start talking about anything
    other than security? And if you're not a national government agency.  
    But more countries are eligible for the security version of shared
    source than for the lesser variant? Some tidying required here, we
    The repackaging of government shared source does however have some
    cute aspects to it. Simply by presenting a Microsoft software-based
    security program to governments, Microsoft is promoting itself a
    little further up the food chain. Sure, governments use Microsoft
    software, but for mission-critical national security? Not a lot, not
    yet. And if a government is using Microsoft software to any great
    extent, then it's going to feel kind of compelled to join in the GSP,
    which is free. Wouldn't it be negligent not to?
    But, if a government has set up a group with the specific brief of
    working with Microsoft staff and Microsoft source, ask yourself what
    that group is likely to come up with. It's not evaluating the security
    of Microsoft software with a view to acceptance or rejection (probably
    not, unless the government is as sneaky as Microsoft), it's working to
    improve the software's security with reference to deployments within
    its own government, and it will become proficient in the production
    and deployment of more secure Microsoft systems in government. What's
    it going to recommend, having acquired this knowledge? Trojan Source,
    you could say.
    Microsoft will apparently be giving online access to a strangely
    precise 97 per cent of the source, while the balance, which is really
    secret, and we don't know what it is, will only be available at
    Microsoft's offices in Redmond. The company, according to Steve Lohr
    of the NYT, will also be allowing governments to substitute their own
    security features for those in Windows. The significance of this,
    however, depends on what this actually means, and the level at which
    they're allowed to do it. We would not be at all surprised if this
    turned out to be yet another sales tool, perhaps for Palladium.
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