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Russia Gets Access to Microsoft Windows Source Code - 2003-01-21

Russia will soon get a chance to look at the closely-guarded source code for Microsoft's Windows computer operating system. This comes as part of the company's policy to allow governments to improve the security of the software they use.

Russia has reached an agreement with Microsoft that will give it access to the source code. The aim is to give Russian programmers greater flexibility to enhance security in computers used by government agencies.

Many countries and international organizations have long complained that the secrecy of the code has limited their ability to use Microsoft products, especially for sensitive information.

Last week the giant computer company announced what it calls the Government Security Program to deal with the problem.

Microsoft officials say they have also signed an agreement with the NATO military alliance and are holding discussions with about 20 governments around the world.

Under the program, governments will be able to verify security within Windows in order to develop their own programs to protect against electronic invasion by hackers.

Analysts say Microsoft agreed to allow access in part because of competition from operating systems such as Linux, whose source code is not secret.

Linux is Microsoft's chief rival in the market for governmental contracts, and its open code allows programmers to modify it to enhance security.

Russian officials say access to the Microsoft Windows source code should also help in the fight against software piracy, a huge issue in Russia.

Almost all of the computer, music and video products available for sale in Russia are pirated versions, and the country has come under increasing pressure to deal with the problem.