German official denies Microsoft software ban report

By Rick Perera, IDG News Service |  Operating Systems

A report in German news magazine Der Spiegel that states that Germany's military
will not use Microsoft Corp. software on computers in "sensitive areas"
is wrong, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Monday.

"This report is wrong," said a defense ministry spokesman. "We
have a general license contract with Microsoft, and that is remaining in force."
He added that various security measures, including firewalls, are being implemented
in consultation with the German federal IT security agency BSI (Bundesamt für
Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik), but declined to give further details.

Der Spiegel reported in its March 17 online edition that the Defense Ministry
is concerned that U.S. intelligence services could gain access to secret information.
German security officials are aware that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)
has access to "all relevant source codes" to Microsoft software, Der
Spiegel said. Authorities plan to rely on encryption technology from the German
companies Siemens AG and Deutsche Telekom AG instead.

"There are no back doors in any Microsoft products," said spokeswoman
Louise Conroy of Microsoft's Europe, Middle East, and Africa headquarters. "We're
committed to providing secure products that can be used to protect the integrity
of all our customers worldwide." Asked about reports that NSA had been
given access to source codes, she would only say, "Over the years, Microsoft
has had its products evaluated by independent third parties to confirm that
they meet U.S., Canadian, and European security standards."

"In France we had such a comment in late February about NSA and software
and source code," said Guillaume Tourres, a spokesman in Microsoft's Paris
office. "The NSA rumor is coming back every two or three months. We are
used to answering these questions."

He added that the company is in negotiations with the French government to
grant access to source code. "We have a worldwide program where authorities
will be able to have the source code of Windows and other Microsoft software,"
he said.

Microsoft has recently publicized plans to make source code more widely available
to large corporate clients, in order to debug and customize their applications.

Der Spiegel further reported that Germany's Foreign Ministry has cancelled
plans for video teleconferencing with its overseas delegations after establishing
that all such satellite signals travel by way of Denver "for technical
reasons."

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