Gates: Comm interoperability crucial to security

Calling it the biggest technological and cultural challenge the country has faced, Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates said that communications interoperability must top the Homeland Security Department's to-do list.

'This must be a high-priority mission for all of us'and all levels of government,' Gates said today at an IT leadership and security conference sponsored by the Information Technology Industry Council and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Referring to the disparate radio systems scattered among first responders at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Gates said effective command and control cannot arise from cracked communications.

His words served as a segue into his description of a new Microsoft Corp. application, called Regional Automated Information Network, which allows three local law enforcement agencies in Washington state to share records.

The new pilot, which Microsoft officials said started last November, combines Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 in a desktop portal and Extensible Markup Language-based query engine that lets 17 jurisdictions electronically search each other's records management systems.

But Gates said the problem extends beyond local boundaries. 'Our responsibility for homeland security doesn't stop at the water's edge,' he said. 'It's a global problem.'

In fact, the homeland security issue provided a chance for Gates to talk about Microsoft's Next-Generation Secure Computing Base, new security technology that falls under the company's Trustworthy Computing campaign to cut down vulnerabilities in its software products. Gates said the company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars for 8,500 software developers to work solely on strengthening the security of their programming code, even delaying the release of Windows Server 2003 by six months in the bargain.

'Preventing cybercrimes is no longer a secondary issue. It's central to what we do,' Gates said. 'It's an ongoing effort that is always improving.'

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