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To Calm Fears about Spy 'Back Doors', Microsoft to Show Code in Brazil

To Calm Fears about Spy 'Back Doors', Microsoft to Show Code in Brazil
In an attempt to allay suspicions in the region that its software programs are vulnerable to spying, Microsoft Corp opened a center in Brazil on Wednesday where officials will be able to inspect its programming code as the company is still being stung by accusations that it installed "back doors" for the U.S. government to access customers' communications.
Experts from Latin American and Caribbean governments will be able to view the source code of the world's biggest software company’s products at its 'Transparency Center' in Brasilia which is placed behind reinforced walls and with strict security settings as the its fourth 'Transparency Center' by Microsoft.
The U.S. National Security Agency was shown to be capturing massive amounts of data from emails handled by major U.S. technology companies, including Microsoft, by the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden who leaked documents in 2013 which revealed this fact. And this measure is being viewed as the effort to build trust after the heightened suspicions in the region following the Snowden leaks.
Brazil and other governments around the world were prompted to reconsider how much they could trust U.S. technology companies not to install back doors at the request of U.S. intelligence agencies by the leak, in addition to another Snowden disclosure that the United States had been spying on communications including those of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
As a rule, no electronics will be allowed into the secure viewing room at the new site, which was visited on Wednesday by officials including the speaker of Brazil's Congress.
The massive amount of coding on display - as much as 50 million lines for its email and server products, would be prevented from being copied by anyone by the measures taken by Microsoft. Computers connected only to local servers and cut off from the internet can be used for viewers to inspect copies of source code on computers. The copies are later deleted.
While it was not immediately clear whether experts would be able to run deep code analysis necessary to uncover back doors or other bugs, Microsoft said that viewers can use software tools to examine the code.
Even though Brazil's reaction to the generally secretive software company opening up its code was initially positive, it is by no means certain the effort by Microsoft will diminish concerns about spying in the region.
"This center is aimed at showing that there are no traps, it is a good step," a Brazilian government official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about cyber security, told the media.
After the NSA scandal, the Brasilia facility is Microsoft's fourth transparency center that it has built. The company set up one in Brussels last year and one transparency center in Singapore earlier this month, one in Brussels last year and the first one was set up at its Redmond, Washington headquarters in the United States in 2014. The company is all set to soon open another in Beijing.
Face-to-face discussions between government experts and developers would be enabled at the centers.
"Governments can verify for themselves that there are no back doors," said Mark Estberg, senior director of Microsoft's global government security program.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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