Indian Army, Microsoft to share Windows source code

Move aims at developing secure operating system

Indian Army, Microsoft to share Windows source code

Information Technology giant Microsoft has agreed to share its proprietary Windows source code with the Indian Army, which is scouring the market for a secure operating system to expand its digital footprint.

“Microsoft has agreed to give the source code. Selection of a secure operating system is on,” said an Army officer, who was part of the Army team that is putting in place a robust IT infrastructure for the 11 lakh strong Indian Army.

Sharing of the Windows source code – proprietary and closely guarded – was a matter of contention as the US firm had refused to part with the code to Indian government agencies in the past. 

With the entry of the Linux in the Indian market more than a decade ago, Microsoft had stated it was willing to discuss source code sharing issues with the Indian government.  In 2010, the US company signed a commercial contract with Russian Intelligence Service to share the source code of Windows 7 operating software.

Access to the source code would help the Army make its software much more impregnable to cyber attacks. As the People's Liberation Army has a brigade of hackers, Indian Army takes every precaution in the book to secure its systems while expanding its digital footprint.

At the core of the digital backbone, lies a high bandwidth Army data network that has connected almost 2500 Army units all over the country. Several software and applications are being developed to improve the communications between the ranks.

But live streaming of the operations is still not on the cards. The US army has such a system in place, which was put to use when US Navy Seals eliminated Osama Bin Laden in 2011 in Pakistan.

As a large number of IT hardware are manufactured in China, the defence forces have a screening system in place to check the presence of any hidden malware.

The Electronic Corporation of India, a public sector undertaking in the department of atomic energy, prepared a standard rule book, which allows the importers of components and software to follow a standard operating procedure to screen these systems.

The strategic establishments are concerned about presence of malware as it is easy to introduce trap doors in embedded software, which can be exploited by others. Chips from abroad are also an area of concern.

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