The latest release of the open source email client Mozilla Thunderbird contains code from the French Military. The involvement of the Ministry of Defence with the free software email client goes back to 2006 when it defined requirements for added security features to Mozilla Thunderbird .
The primary modifications donated by the French military are security features such as delivery status notification, allowing emails to be marked urgent and increasing the options for signing and securing emails. An email can be signed, then encrypted and then signed once more for added security.
“These changes allow them to know for sure when messages have been read, which is critical in a command-and-control organization,” said David Ascher, chief executive of Mozilla Messaging, in an interview with the financial wire service Reuters.
The French military released their own version of Mozilla Thunderbird, called Milimail, in July 2007. It was later renamed Trustedbird and is now co-branded with Mozilla.
For the French military, using Thunderbird is now mandatory, although in some cases exceptions are possible.
Thunderbird is now installed on 80,000 French military desktop computers. “We started with one military project, the Gendarmerie Nationale, but quickly generalised it,” Lieutenant-Colonel Frederic Suel of the Ministry of Defense and one of those in charge of the project told Reuters. Non-military departments of the ministry of Defense quickly showed interest, which in turn led to more features being added.
Other ministries and departments have followed the military. Mozilla Thunderbird is now also used by the ministries of Finance, the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Culture.
The next version of Trustedbird will be released in 2010. Trustedbird is release under three free software licences, the Mozilla public licence, the GNU public licence and the less Gnu public licence. This means the code developed by the military is made available to the free software community.
Article was originally published at the Open Source Observatory & Repository Europe.