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Fifth Column Billionaire By: James P. Lucier
Insight on the News | Friday, February 28, 2003

Microsoft's Bill Gates, freshly topping the list of billionaires with a personal portfolio of $40 billion, signed a pact with the People's Republic of China on Feb. 28 to reveal the highly secretive source code for the Windows operating system to Chinese security experts, according to the Website CNET News.com. Hitherto Microsoft has always maintained that the source code constitutes the company's crown jewel and that it could not be revealed without damage to its proprietary rights.

But under assault from critics and clients who have complained about bugs and security breaches in Windows, Microsoft has agreed to share its source code with government regulatory agencies in countries around the world to convince users that the platform is reliable. Its new Government Security Program is an effort to counter the growing acceptance of Linux, a rival operating system that is based on open source code. Linux is essentially freeware that any competent programmer can tailor to the needs of the user.

"We expect to work with those central national agencies that focus on security as a core priority, and that have the responsibility of conducting overall security reviews on behalf of their central governments," said Microsoft's Craig Muldie on Jan. 14. "So what we're probably talking about is a national interior ministry or a dedicated security department." In one-party totalitarian states, the interior ministry is usually responsible for the suppression and incarceration of dissidents, and tracking their communications. Muldie is senior vice president and chief technical officer of advanced strategies and policies.

But last May another Microsoft executive, Jim Allchin, group vice president for platforms, was in Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's D.C. District Court of Appeals in the Microsoft monopoly case arguing that the source code could not be divulged because of national-security reasons. "It is not exaggeration to say that the national security is also implicated by the efforts of hackers to break into computing networks," he testified, according to ZD Net News. "Computers, including many running Windows operating systems, are used throughout the United States Department of Defense and by the armed forces of the United States in Afghanistan and elsewhere."

Given that the writings of Chinese military planners have identified as a high priority obtaining the capability of hacking into and disabling the computer systems of the United States as a legitimate form of cyberwarfare, Microsoft's revelation of the Window's source code to China could simplify the Red military planner's tasks.

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