Open-Source Fight Flares At Pentagon Microsoft Lobbies Hard Against Free Software

Steve Schear schear at
Thu May 23 10:44:39 PDT 2002

>Open-Source Fight Flares At Pentagon
>Microsoft Lobbies Hard Against Free Software
>By Jonathan Krim
>Washington Post Staff Writer
>Thursday, May 23, 2002; Page E01
>Microsoft Corp. is aggressively lobbying the Pentagon to squelch its
>growing use of freely distributed computer software and switch to
>proprietary systems such as those sold by the software giant,
>according to officials familiar with the campaign.
>In what one military source called a "barrage" of contacts with
>officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency and the office of
>Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over the past few months, the
>company said "open source" software threatens security and its
>intellectual property.
>But the effort may have backfired. A May 10 report prepared for the
>Defense Department concluded that open source often results in more
>secure, less expensive applications and that, if anything, its use
>should be expanded.
>"Banning open source would have immediate, broad, and strongly
>negative impacts on the ability of many sensitive and security-focused
>DOD groups to protect themselves against cyberattacks," said the
>report, by Mitre Corp.

<text deleted>

>Microsoft also said open-source software is inherently less secure
>because the code is available for the world to examine for flaws,
>making it possible for hackers or criminals to exploit
>them. Proprietary software, the company argued, is more secure because
>of its closed nature.

A master of the security half-truth chimes in...

>"I've never seen a systematic study that showed open source to be more
>secure," said Dorothy Denning, a professor of computer science at
>Georgetown University who specializes in information warfare.

>John Stenbit, an assistant secretary of defense and the Defense
>Department's chief information officer, said Microsoft has said using
>free software with commercial software might violate the
>intellectual-property rights of companies such as Microsoft. Stenbit
>said the issue is legally "murky."

<much deleted>

>Stenbit said the debate is academic and that what matters is how
>secure a given piece of software is. To that end, the Defense
>Department is now prohibited from purchasing any software that has not
>undergone security testing by the NSA. Stenbit said he is unaware of
>any open-source software that has been tested.

This should present no problem for open source software.  No purchase takes 
place since the software is "free" by definition.


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