In a surprise move Microsoft said yesterday that it would open up its secret source code to governments.
The closely guarded source code for the Redmond giant's software is to be made available through a confidence-building initiative it has called the Government Security Program.
Under the terms of this agreement governments will be allowed to access the core software code from Microsoft's entire range of products in order to improve the security of their infrastructures.
"We have a business interest in having people feel completely comfortable with our software, whether it is mission-critical or not," Craig Mundie, the company's chief technology officer, told news agency Reuters.
The initiative has already got off to a strong start, with the NATO defence alliance and Russia signing up to participate.
Microsoft is also engaged in discussions with more than 60 other national governments.
The company said that, in order to allow governments to optimise security, it planned to provide technical documentation and resources that have never before been made available to third parties.
Software engineers will also be made available for consultation with governments subscribing to the initiative, Microsoft promised.
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