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Posts tagged as “NSA”

Ubuntu Hacked, Linux Journal Extremists & More…

Also included: Microsoft shows love of Linux with gift of Skype and Torvalds continues to be Torvalds.

FOSS Week in Review

The biggest Linux story this week by mainstream tech sites’ standards was Skype working to include Linux users in its installed base by releasing a new Linux client to replace obsolete software that hadn’t been updated in at least two years. According to many of the comments on FOSS Force’s coverage, Skype might consider itself a day late and a dollar short.

The big problem, of course, is Skype’s ownership by Microsoft, whose love of Linux is so far unrequited. Add to that the fact that Skype, like Microsoft, doesn’t have the monopoly it once had and the result is a less than enthusiastic response. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ubuntu doesn’t start installing the Skype client by default once it comes out of beta.

Now on to some news that’s really newsworthy…

Rule 41: Getting Around the Constitution and Having It Too

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand what’s wrong with the proposed federal court updates to Rule 41.

Anyone who’s even halfway following the news of the proposed updates to Rule 41 probably can’t help but be struck by the irony of the situation. It’s actually humorous, in a Vonnegutian tragicomic sort of way.

In case you haven’t been following the news, the proposed changes from the advisory committee on criminal rules for the Judicial Conference of the United States would update Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and broadly expand law enforcement’s legal authority when it comes to hacking and surveillance. The Supreme Court has already passed the proposal to Congress, which must disavow the changes by December 1 or it becomes the governing rule for every federal court in the country.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Using Paris Attacks as Excuse to Expand Domestic Spying

It’s no surprise that Friday’s Paris attacks are already being used to push for both more and continued surveillance here in the U.S.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday speaking before a House subcommittee, making the case for expanding the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) which compelled telecom companies, Internet providers and some VoIP services to make their networks easier for law enforcement to access. Wheeler would like Congress to consider expanding the scope of the law to include devices such as gaming platforms, which now have capabilities that go beyond mere gaming.

“You read in the press that [the Paris attackers] were using PlayStation 4 games to communicate on,” Wheeler told the subcommittee, “which is outside the scope of anything considered in CALEA, so there’s probably opportunities to update the ‘lawful intercept’ concept.”

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

The NSA, Windows & Antivirus

Poor Microsoft. The beleaguered company just can’t catch a break. We’ve already told you about how Snowden’s revelations have forced the pride of Redmond to spend who knows how many millions opening two “transparency centers” to allow government IT experts to pore through source code to prove there’s no back doors baked into Windows or other Microsoft products. Trouble is, while its engineers have been busy plastering over all traces of old back doors, they’ve left a side door standing wide open, waiting to be exploited.

Boris and NatashaBoris and NatashaIronically, this side door is intended to be a security door for third party add-ons that every Windows machine needs to keep it safe from cracker hackers — if that’s indeed possible. And this security tool is usually more trusted by Microsoft system admins, especially those outside the U.S., than Windows itself.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Nowhere to Run or Hide in the Technology Age

Free tech is about much more than free software. It’s more than just being able to see and modify code and deeper than the rivalry between proprietary and FOSS or Windows versus Linux. It’s not just about computers. Free tech is also about freedom and rights, and keeping our lifestyle from being destroyed by the misuse of technology.

LPR cameraLPR cameraEach day our news sites offer more evidence that this is happening. Collectively, we shrug and think there’s nothing to be done. This dragon is too huge to slay.

On Friday, Ars Technica and other sites reported that the town of Paradise Valley, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, is hiding license plate readers (LPRs) inside artificial cactuses. Ho-hum. The cameras aren’t very well hidden and there’s really nothing new here. LPR technology has been around for a while — cops love it because it makes their jobs easier — and other jurisdictions have been hiding them too.

Besides, the town is so inept that there can’t be much danger here. The town manager told a local TV station that the cameras weren’t active, although the local gendarmes had announced a few days earlier that the cameras had scored their first hit and that a motorist had been subjected to a traffic stop but not arrested. Another ho-hum. This would seem to be another case file from “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

What’s the Cost of NSA Spying?

Back when Edward Snowden first began revealing details of the depth of NSA spying on foreign governments and companies, as well as U.S. citizens, I said that this would end up costing U.S. tech companies dearly. Now we’re beginning to see just how much: $47 billion according to Forrester Research. As large as that figure is, it could have been worse. Back in 2013, the folks at Forrester were estimating that the stateside tech industry would take a $180 billion hit.

By design, the research company’s numbers don’t reflect the amount of money spent by U.S. taxpayers funding the NSA’s operations. Nor do they indicate how much of this $47 billion is being born by the likes of Microsoft and Oracle, as far as I can tell. What I do know is that many foreign governments have been publicly investing in Linux and open source projects since Snowden’s revelations that back doors for the NSA have been built into many proprietary U.S. enterprise software products.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

2014’s Five Biggest Stories Affecting FOSS

Another year has come and gone, and as you might have guessed, 2014 still wasn’t the year of the Linux desktop.

Covering FOSS and Linux isn’t nearly as exciting as it was a decade or so ago — but that’s a good thing. Back then, we were at war with nearly every proprietary software vendor on the planet and faced threats from all directions, including up and down. To be sure, we didn’t start the wars we were fighting, as PROFAL (the People’s Republic of FOSS and Linux) only wished for peaceful coexistence.

The dust settled long ago and it appears as if we won most of these wars we didn’t start. Even our old arch enemy Microsoft is now waving the flag of peace and is seeking to normalize relations with us. And our old arch-arch enemy, SCO, doesn’t even exist any more — at least not in any form that we would recognize as the SCO of old. May Caldera rest in peace.

That doesn’t mean there’s not still news to be covered in the FOSS world. There is — and plenty of it. But these days, it’s mostly about advancements in technology, new start-ups and new alliances. We still face threats, to be sure, from crackers, spooks, politicians, the RIAA and the MPAA, but these forces threaten all of computerdom, not just FOSS, so we’ve been able to nurture some new strange bedfellows to join us in our struggles.

As years go, 2014 wasn’t the most boring year in the history of the free software movement, but it also wasn’t overly exciting. Again, that’s a good thing as it means there was no battening down the hatches and stuff. Still, there were many trends in the news this year which directly affect the purveyors and users of FOSS.

Here’s my top five list:

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

The Ongoing Wars Against Free Tech

After a few months of not hearing much from Microsoft, the company has been in the news a bit recently. First there was the brouhaha when it announced it was offering the .NET framework as open source. Then there were several big security problems with Windows, with one serious vulnerability going all the way back to Windows 95.

Although this would’ve been big news in the old days, the FOSS press has been relatively quiet about all this. There were a few articles about the .NET thing, with some writers pointing out that the MIT license which Redmond is using will offer no patent protection for Redmond owned .NET related patents, and the Windows security issues got next to no FOSS coverage at all.

My how times have changed.

A decade ago the open sourcing of any major program by Microsoft would have FOSS writers in a dither, even if released under the GPL. We would’ve been uber suspicious, certain that this was only the front end of a plan to end Linux and FOSS as we know it. As for the Windows security woes, we’d be rubbing our hands with glee, writing paragraph after paragraph on how much this proves the inferiority of Windows and the superiority of our beloved Linux. In those days, we had to take our good news wherever we could find it.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

When the Police Can Brick Your Phone

“Tyranny. Pure and simple. If it is software, somebody will find a way to hack it. If it is hardware, ‘old’ smartphones will be worth their weight in platinum.”

My friend Ross from Toronto made this comment with a link he posted on Facebook to The Free Thought Project’s article on a new about-to-be law in California. The law mandates a kill switch on all new smartphones, allowing the owner of a stolen phone to disable it until it’s recovered. The bill, CA SB 962, now only needs the expected signature of governor Jerry Brown to become law. In July, a similar law went into effect in Minnesota.

Organized using smartphones.Organized using smartphones.
Photo by Jonas Naimark – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
On the surface, a law with the purpose of protecting expensive smartphones from theft might seem to be a no-brainer good thing. Just render the device inoperable, while activating a homing program to locate it. Presto! In no time at all the phone is back in the hands of its rightful owner and made operable again. Supporters also hope the kill switch becomes a deterrent that greatly reduces the number of phone thefts.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

China Says ‘No’ to Windows 8

Reuters reported yesterday that the Chinese government has banned the use of Windows 8 on Chinese government computers. According to the official Xinhua news agency, the ban is being put in place by the Central Government Procurement Center primarily over security concerns now that Microsoft has ended support for XP, which is thought to be the most widely used operating system within China. This news has led Forbes to speculate that this may prompt Redmond to continue to support the OS within the People’s Republic.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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