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US task force hunting for Internet Windows-opener

Date: February 16, 2004
Source: Taipei Times

SOURCE CODES: The FBI and Secret Service are among the agencies searching for whoever posted part of the blueprints for Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0
An FBI task force hunted Saturday for a cyber-criminal who posted on the Internet source code for Windows, the jewels of Microsoft's software empire.
In jeopardy is Microsoft's near-monopoly on operating systems found on 90 percent of the world's personal computers.

"I can confirm that" the North-west Cybercrime Task Force was investigating, FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs said.

"Microsoft source code is both copyrighted and protected as a trade secret," the company said in a statement posted on its Web site on Saturday.

"As such, it is illegal to post it, make it available to others, download it or use it," the statement said.

The posted program is part of the source codes, or blueprints, for Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0, according to the company.

Counterfeiters have been trying to get their hands on Windows source code for years. So have computer activists who say that programs could be made to work better with Windows if the source code were public.

Microsoft said that its own security had not been breached by whomever did the posting, nor was it released by a series of companies and governments with whom it shares the source code for the purpose of building software to work with Windows.

In any case, Microsoft's code allows the company to keep its near-monopoly on computer operating systems, for the same reason Coca-Cola guards its secret formula.

Microsoft expects revenue in the fiscal year ending June 30 to range between US$35.6 billion and US$35.9 billion, with operating income of between US$10.3 billion and US$10.6 billion.

The incident could deal a painful blow to the company which was founded in Redmond, Washington in 1975.

The announcement of the leak came on the same day Microsoft pushed in Washington for tougher anti-counterfeit legislation in the US and worldwide, saying pervasive pirating of computer software was hurting the industry.

Pirated programs account for 25 percent of software used in the US and 40 percent of software used worldwide, according to industry officials. In parts of Asia and the former Soviet Union piracy rates approach 90 percent, they said.

As a result, the US software industry loses US$13 billion a year for counterfeiting and other forms of software piracy.

The task force, which battles counterfeiting as well as child pornography and identity theft, comprises the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service, Seattle police and the Washington State Patrol, Burroughs said.

The US Congress is considering legislation designed to close a number of legal loopholes often allowing counterfeiters to get away with their activities, specifically prohibiting trafficking in genuine authentication components.
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