Microsoft opens Beijing center to allow governments to review its source code

Microsoft's new Transparency Center will allow governments to check the security of products and services -- but not alter what is delivered to customers.

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The ability to ensure products are secure makes governments keener to deploy them, says Microsoft.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Microsoft has opened a facility in Beijing to allow Asian governments to examine the source code of its products to ensure there are no hidden backdoors.

This is the third 'Microsoft Transparency Center' the company has announced, following similar initiatives in Redmond in 2014 and Brussels in 2015; Microsoft said that others will follow.

The Transparency Centers were announced in 2013 as part of a number of programs designed to increase trust in Microsoft's products and services following the revelations from NSA-contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden about government snooping on internet traffic.

Microsoft said its new facility would allow government IT experts to test and analyze its products closely, to confirm that there are no backdoors in the source code.

"These facilities are designed to provide deep ability to understand the security we deploy, and do so in an environment that ensures our products remain proprietary and protected," said Scott Charney, Microsoft's corporate vice president of trustworthy computing.

Governments will be able to inspect the source code from key enterprise products, including the ability to run tools against the source code to enable static and dynamic analysis. But while the Transparency Centers give governments the ability to review Microsoft's products and services, both manually and by running tools, they cannot alter what's delivered to customers.

Microsoft said that government customers want to know "with a high level of assurance" that its products can withstand the security threats they see every day.

Microsoft has a long-running Government Security Program (GSP) that provides information about the security of its products and services, shares information about threats and vulnerabilities, and provides online access to inspect its products. Around 70 agencies from almost 40 national governments and international organizations worldwide are part of the program: China was one of the earliest members.

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