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Microsoft lets Beijing fondle its bits in new source code audit hub

New 'Transparency Centre' comes to Asia, more to open in 'coming weeks'

Microsoft has opened a technology centre in China to reassure Beijing it does not have backdoors in its software.

The so-called Transparency Centre is the third Redmond has opened to reassure governments that Microsoft's wares are secure.

Redmond's trustworthy computing corporate veep Scott Charney says the centre will allow manual review of Microsoft products without allowing tampering that could compromise customers, such as the insertion of backdoors.

“Just like our Microsoft Transparency Centers in North America and Europe, our new facility in Asia enables government IT experts to test and analyse our products closely and gain confidence that our software will stand up to their security needs when deployed broadly,” Charney says.

“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.

“Simply put, governments have the ability to review our products and services, both manually and by running tools, but they cannot alter what is delivered to customers.”

The centres complement Microsoft’s Government Security Program, launched in 2002 to allow some 40 nations to review its code.

Microsoft is not alone in allowing Beijing to peek at its source code. IBM allegedly did so in late 2015 when it permitted Beijing auditors to peruse its source code within the confines of a locked room.

Microsoft's China centre could go some way towards easing tensions between Beijing and Western software companies, as both sides fear of government-inserted backdoors in major hardware and software products.

Beijing met public blustering from the US, the UK, and Australia over the possible presence of backdoors in Chinese wares when in January last year it mandated foreign software vendors selling to Chinese banks turn over source code and submit to to rigorous software audits.

Microsoft's Charney said the company plans to reveal more security centres in coming weeks. ®

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