Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Google apps lacked key security certification: DOJ

SEATTLE: Google Inc's Internet-based software applications for government customers don't have a key security certification, contrary to the company's claims in a lawsuit over a multimillion-dollar contract, the US Department of Justice said in a December legal filing. 

In a filing unsealed April 8, the Justice Department said it "appears" that Google Apps for Government software doesn't have Federal Information Security Management Act certification, "notwithstanding Google's representations to the public at large, its counsel, the GAO ( Government Accountability Office) and this court." A different version of Google Apps received the certification last year, the Justice Department wrote. 

Google sued the US Interior Department in October, arguing that a planned $49.3 million contract to provide e-mail and online-collaboration services lacked sufficient competition and gave favorable treatment to Microsoft Corp, which was set to be awarded the contract. The Justice Department comments were part of a government filing seeking a judgment in favor of the US and dismissal of Google's complaint. 

"We did not mislead the court or our customers," said David Mihalchik, an executive with the Google Enterprise unit, in an e-mailed statement. "Google Apps received a FISMA security authorization from the General Services Administration in July 2010. Google Apps for Government is the same system with enhanced security controls that go beyond FISMA requirements. As planned we're working with GSA to continuously update our documentation with these and other additional enhancements." 

Applications pending 
The case is being heard by US Court of Federal Claims Judge Susan Braden in Washington. Braden issued an order on Jan. 3 preventing the agency from proceeding with the official award of the contracts. 

Google, based in Mountain View, California, is in the process of finishing its application to get FISMA certification for Google Apps for Government. The Microsoft product that the Interior Department chose, BPOS-Federal, is also going through the certification process as part of a contract Microsoft has with the US Department of Agriculture. 

"This case is about the Department of Interior limiting its proposal to one product that isn't even FISMA certified, so this question is unrelated to our request that DOI allow for a true competition when selecting its technology providers," Mihalchik said. 

Temporary authority 
Microsoft has a temporary authority to operate from USDA as part of its contract with that agency, and the final certification is expected soon, said Kevin Kutz, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft. 

"Google can't be under the misimpression that FISMA certification for Google Apps Premier also covers Google Apps for Government," wrote David Howard, a Microsoft deputy general counsel, in a posting on the company's "Microsoft on the Issues" blog. "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?"

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