Home Government Tech Policy US tech firms may have to disclose foreign source code demands
US tech firms may have to disclose foreign source code demands Featured

American technology companies may be required by law to inform the government if they permit countries seen as enemies — China and Russia, for example — access to the source code of applications that are being used by the US military.

A Reuters report said that legislation to this effect had been proposed by Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen and given the tick of approval by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The report hinted that the same strictures on source code reviews would apply to any foreign companies whose software was in use by the US armed forces. And if a review did throw up any anomalies, then the use of that software would be limited to non-classified areas.

The new rules on source code disclosure have been added to the Senate's version of the Defence Department's spending bill which is known as the National Defence Authorisation Act.

They need to be voted on by the Senate and incorporated into the version of the bill which is in the House of Representatives before it goes to US President Donald Trump for being signed into law.

US companies have, in the past, allowed inspection of their source code in order to obtain sales contracts. In June 2017, it was reported that McAfee, Cisco, IBM and SAP were acceding to demands by Moscow for source code inspections.

In October last year, Russia was allowed to review the source code of software from Hewlett Packard Enterprise known as ArcSight which is used by the US military for cyber defence.

The inspection was done by the Russian defence agency Echelon which has close military ties. ArcSight is now owned by British mainframe company Micro Focus which bought HPE's software assets in a sale completed in September last year.

Also, Microsoft allowed China to inspect the source code of its operating system, Windows, a process that took two years, before it was allowed to build a product — Windows 10 China Government Edition — that could be sold to the Chinese public sector.

Not even 10 days after the report about ArcSight was published, the chief executive of American security giant Symantec, Greg Clark, said that while he was willing to sell his company's products in any country, “that is a different thing than saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to let people crack it open and grind all the way through it and see how it all works’.”

Symantec changed policy on source code inspections by other countries in 2016.

In what is the exact opposite, Russian security company Kaspersky Lab said it would allow source code review by independent third parties. Use of Kaspersky software has been banned in the US public sector since September 2017.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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