The Security Cooperation Program was launched just over a year ago and has already been rolled out to certain US states and individual government agencies in Norway, Chile, Switzerland, Germany and Israel. However, Australia is the first to sign up on a national level.
Peter Watson, chief security advisor at Microsoft Australia told ZDNet Australia that the agreement has been tailored for Australia's specific needs: "We announced this program at the beginning of February 2005... we have been working on how to structure something that is right for Australia".
"In Australia we have put a structure in place that is a bit different to other governments around the world... it is a whole of government structure that allows the states and territories to be participants," said Watson.
According to Watson, the agreement not only formalises procedures to allow any state or government agency to share information on vulnerabilities and threats with Microsoft. It also means Microsoft will provide its technical expertise during an IT emergency situation.
"[The SCP] covers information sharing... it allows the government to provide us with information on what security issues they are seeing. If there was a part of government that was having an emergency situation in relation to its IT security we have set up a process whereby they can engage us and we will provide resources to work on those issues,' said Watson.
The SCP will be coordinated through the Defence Signals Directorate, which is the federal authority for signals intelligence and information security.
Watson said that although the agreement is currently only set to last for one year, it will be relatively simple to extend: "The agreement lasts for a year but there is a degree in writing for continuance. It is not like it only lasts for 12 months and then runs out. That is just a checkpoint in time to allow for both parties to disengage if there was a reason".
In 2003 the Australian government signed up to Microsoft's Government Security Program, which provides access to the source code behind Microsoft Windows and allows the government to check the operating system for vulnerabilities and potential threats.