GlaxoSmithKline deploys Encryption Free and Export Law Compliant Solution in Iran and Syria
GSK has a challenging and inspiring mission: to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. This mission gives GSK the purpose to develop innovative medicines and products that help millions of people around the world.
GSK is one of the few pharmaceutical companies researching both medicines and vaccines for the World Health Organization’s three priority diseases – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and are very proud to have developed some of the leading global medicines in these fields.
Headquartered in the UK and with operations based in the US, GSK is one of the industry leaders, with an estimated seven per cent of the world's pharmaceutical market.
GSK is licensed and allowed to manufacture and sell pharmaceutical products in the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, because of the current US Export Restrictions to Syria and Iran, GSK faced a hurdle in continuing operations these countries. Unable to use the standard tools and equipment because of restrictions that they not be manufactured, sourced or licensed in the US, this ruled out GSK using Intel, AMD, Microsoft and products from most other companies, which meant GSK was unable to use PC's running on standard software products. But to support operations, it was imperative that they find a solution to this problem, while strictly following the spirit and letter of the laws of the countries in which GSK operates.
GSK approached a few multinational companies to find a solution to the problem at hand. They ran into obstacles at different points, and finally contacted Integra Technologies, which is an exclusively enterprise opensource solution provider to see if any possible solutions could be designed.
We sensed an opportunity immediately, as this was right in our area of expertise. GSK signed up for a pilot project, with a timeframe of just under a month to provide a tangible Proof of Concept to the problem at hand.
We scouted for a hardware that was not manufactured in nor based on an US patented architecture. We found a solution in a Chinese Academy of Sciences Labs development, and was able to source a laptop built on the processor. Having an 800 MHz processor with 1 GB of RAM and an 8.9" LCD screen, the laptop was air-shipped to our Head Office for evaluation.
Now that we had the hardware, the software was the next big step. The base architecture on which the processor was built had a version of the Linux Kernel ported to it. However, since the US embargo extends to the encryption algorithms, we had to build the kernel from scratch, and Gentoo Linux became an obvious choice, since everything is built by compilation and the code could be modified quite easily.
Once the kernel was compiled and installed, the next big task was to select applications. GSK wanted an Office suite, a PDF reader, a web browser and an email client. Naturally, all of these packages needed to have all encryption code removed.
A lot of packages were evaluated and the capabilities were matched with the requirements put forward by GSK, and a suite of products was selected and compiled for the platform.
After extensive trials at the office in Dubai, and with GSK satisfied with the robustness of the solution afnd after the legal department gave the formal approval, a large number of laptops were imported. The solution is at present deployed at all locations in Syria and Iran.