In a move which will help relieve security concerns in many Federal government agencies, the Australian government and Microsoft have signed a landmark agreement to co-operate on IT security matters. The agreement, the first made by Microsoft at a whole-of-government level, commits Microsoft to sharing early information about security threats and vulnerabilities. In return, the government will provide greater feedback to Microsoft on how its products are being used and how its security measures are working. States and Territories will also be able to sign up for the agreement.
Signalling its importance to both parties, the agreement was launched at Parliament House by Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock and Microsoft Australia Managing Director Steve Vamos. "We must always remain one step ahead of the hackers and criminals who seek to exploit information technology systems for their own benefit or to inflict harm on our community," Mr Ruddock said. Mr Vamos said that the agreement was part of an international initiative to help Governments stay ahead of cyber-criminals and that there was a role for industry and Government to work together in everyone’s interests.
The widespread adoption of Microsoft platforms in many agencies, particularly in defence, law enforcement and intelligence, has led to concerns about greater risk of attack to government systems through the underlying Microsoft products. Ironically, this concern is a product of Microsoft’s success, since any vulnerability or attack could be widespread and impact on many.