Open SourceSoftware

Code.Gov Repository For Open Source US Government Code Goes Live

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

US government decides to place all Federal source code on one website, calling it the ‘people’s code’

The US government has decided to place all Federal source code online in a single repository called Code.gov so that Americans can check out the “people’s code”.

The idea is the brain child of US chief information officer Tony Scott, the former CIO of VMware hired by the Obama administration in February 2015, and follows the publication of the Federal Source Code Policy in August.

Federal Code

American cloud flag tattered © CURAphotography ShutterstockIn a nutshell, this policy requires any code developed by or for the US federal government, must be released a permissive open source licence, and that the source code must be made publicly available.

“The code for these platforms is, after all, the People’s Code – and today we’re excited to announce that it’ll be accessible from one place, Code.gov, for the American people to explore, improve, and innovate,” said Scott.

He explained how the release of the Federal Source Code Policy is designed to improve access to the Federal Government’s custom-developed software.

“It’s a step we took to help Federal agencies avoid duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and cross-agency collaboration,” he added. “And it’s a step we took to enable the brightest minds inside and outside of government to work together to ensure that Federal code is reliable and effective.”

It seems that so far the Code.gov repository already contains the source code to nearly 50 open source projects from over 10 agencies.

“Further, Code.gov will provide useful tools and best practices to help agencies implement the new policy,” Scott continued. “ For example, starting today agencies can begin populating their enterprise code inventories using the metadata schema on Code.gov, discover various methods on how to build successful open source projects, and much more.

“We also envision it becoming a useful resource for State and local governments and developers looking to tap into the Government’s code to build similar services, foster new connections with their users, and help us continue to realise the President’s vision for a 21st Century digital government.”

Keys To The Kingdom?

The launch of the source code repository could raise eyebrows within security circles, considering the current cyber threat faced by all government institutions.

Last month for example it emerged that hackers responsible for stealing internal data and security credentials from US government employees are now offering to sell the source code of the malware used to breach those systems.

Another highly damaging attack against US networks saw hackers able to steal an estimated 21.5 million records from the US government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Hacking attacks against the US government is often carried out by state-sponsored attackers. The OPM hack was probably carried out by China, US director of national intelligence James Clapper has previously said.

Meanwhile earlier this month US intelligence officials officially blamed “senior” Russian government figures for recent politically motivated hacking incidents, including the release of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Are you a security pro? Try our quiz!