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Microsoft Disputes Google's Government Certification Claims

A Microsoft lawyer on Monday suggested that Google's claims of having achieved U.S. government security certification for its Apps for Government products are false.

Google claims that its Apps for Government services, released in July 2010, are certified under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), according to a product description. David Howard, Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, says otherwise. He cites a Department of Justice (DoJ) brief in a Google lawsuit against the department, in which a footnote states, "[I]t appears that Google's Google Apps for Government does not have FISMA certification."

FISMA is a 2002 law that requires agencies to certify information security processes for their IT systems, including those managed by other agencies or contractors.

The DoJ brief cites an e-mail from December in which a security officer within the General Services Administration (GSA), which issues FISMA certifications, says that Apps for Government does not have FISMA accreditation, according to the Los Angeles Times. Google did receive FISMA certification for Google Apps Premier, the brief states, but Apps for Government is a "more restrictive" version that Google is preparing to submit for FISMA certification.

Coincidentally, the GSA in December became the first federal agency to move its agencywide e-mail to the cloud, choosing Google Apps for Government.

In a blog post on Monday, Howard called attention to the DoJ's brief, which had been unsealed last week.

"Google can't be under the misimpression that FISMA certification for Google Apps Premier also covers Google Apps for Government," Howard wrote. "If that were the case, then why did Google, according to the attachments in the DoJ brief, decide to file a separate FISMA application for Google Apps for Government?"

In a statement, David Mihalchik, business development executive for Google Federal, responded by saying Apps for Government "is the same system with enhanced security controls that go beyond FISMA requirements," and added Google "did not mislead the court or our customers."

The dispute grows out of a suit Google filed against the Department of Interior (DoI) in October. Google had accused the DoI of favoring Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) over Google's offerings when it was considering bids for departmentwide e-mail. BPOS, a collection of cloud-based services, is still under consideration to get FISMA certification for some applications, although Microsoft's cloud infrastructure has received FISMA approval. A judge granted Google a preliminary injunction in January.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is the managing editor of Government Computer News.

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