EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

06.27.13

TechBytes Episode 79: Richard Stallman Speaks About Back Doors

Posted in TechBytes at 3:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Techbytes 2013

Direct download as Ogg (00:09:50, 5.7 MB)

Summary: The second part of this interview series focuses on back doors in software

TODAY we speak about back doors and software freedom tackling this issue. Now that we know that the NSA receives notifications about zero-day flaws in Windows (long in advance, directly from Microsoft), which enables cracking PCs abroad, this is very relevant.

This is the second of several (the first part is here) and the transcript follows.


Dr. Roy S. Schestowitz: I want to try and discuss with you this whole subject of back doors. I think in the past — I know from experience — people were trying to call people like yourself “paranoid” for discussing or even entertaining the possibility that there may be back doors in proprietary software. Well, now we know that they exist. One of the things…

Richard StallmanDr. Richard M. Stallman: We know for a long time about specific back doors in specific proprietary software. It has been documented. For instance, the existence of a universal back door in Microsoft Windows was proved years ago. And the existence of a universal back door in most portable phones was proved years ago. Now, a universal back door means that they can be used to do absolutely anything. It can be used to change the software, so whatever they want to do, they could put in software which does it.

RSS: We can make an educated guess about what they think is intercepted and how, but I think that many discussions lack technical details on exactly how the NSA is doing what it does because Glenn Greenwald is not going to release the documents related to that. But some people were talking about hardware-level — even firewall- of network-level — back doors. We may know, based on the leaks for example of Klein in AT&T, they might be harvesting the data at the chokepoints.

RMS: Well, it’s not a back door. If AT&T agreed to connect its computers to surveillance of the NSA, that doesn’t involve a back door. Those computers belong to AT&T, so if AT&T has full control over them, which it should, then AT&T could also connect to the NSA. You see, these are somewhat different issues. The first issue, which Free software is part of, is that you should have control over your computer. Now, that’s violated with proprietary software if your computer is running, say, Windows, or Mac OS, or if it’s an iThing, or most kinds of Android products, then you don’t control it, some company is controlling it and making it do things that you’ll like. So the first thing is, [incomprehensible] says that the computer should have full control over it.

“I don’t think the US government should use operating systems made in China for the same reason that most governments shouldn’t use operating systems made in the US and in fact we just got proof since Microsoft is now known to be telling the NSA about bugs in Windows before it fixes them.”But that doesn’t mean that when you’re using some company’s service, if a company has full control over the computers that implement that service, which it should, that doesn’t mean the company will treat you right. That’s a separate issue. It’s wrong for [another] company to have control over these computers and if AT&T uses proprietary software, it [that other company] fully has control over AT&T’s computers and that’s wrong. However, making sure AT&T has complete control over its computers doesn’t guarantee that AT&T will treat us right.

RSS: I was thinking about a different scenario where the company that you interact with might itself backdoored in the sense that the firewalls, they might be using older hardware and might be using — maybe — back door by design, so that the NSA, for example, can quietly and silently infiltrate and capture data, for example, [from] firewalls or Intel chips for example.

RMS: It’s possible, and not just necessarily Intel chips because the Pentagon suspects that devices made by Huawei might have some back door of the Chinese government…

RSS: And the latest NDAA is actually explicitly forbidding the use of hardware made in China. That’s from the NDAA 2014. But not many speak about why this is happening, why they modified the rules. Recently, interestingly enough, a guy who was interacting with these companies — I’m not sure if you’ve heard about Shane Todd — the guy who lived in Singapore was assassinated apparently under the — basically, the guise of suicide — and there seems to be a lot of suspicion among those two camps of telecom companies and what they might be doing at the back room.

RMS: Well, it’s perfectly reasonable suspicion to me. I don’t think the US government should use operating systems made in China for the same reason that most governments shouldn’t use operating systems made in the US and in fact we just got proof since Microsoft is now known to be telling the NSA about bugs in Windows before it fixes them.

RSS: I was just going to bring this up exactly, so I was saying that the NSA recently received notifications about the zero-day holes in advance and [incomprehensible] the NSA and the CIA to just crack PCs abroad for espionage purposes.

RMS: Now, [incomprehensible] that this proves my point, which is that you have to be nuts if you were some other country and using Windows on your computers. But, you know, given that Windows has a universal back door in it, Microsoft would hardly need to tell the NSA about any bugs, it can tell the NSA about the mal-feature of the universal back door and that would be enough for the NSA to attack any computer running Windows, which unfortunately is a large fraction of them.


The next part will be published next week.

We hope you will join us for future shows and consider subscribing to the show via the RSS feed. You can also visit our archives for past shows. If you have an Identi.ca account, consider subscribing to TechBytes in order to keep up to date.

As embedded (HTML5):

Keywords: gnu fsf richardstallman

Download:

Ogg Theora

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

3 Comments

  1. David Gerard said,

    June 28, 2013 at 3:27 am

    Gravatar

    Small point of order on titles! RMS has many honorary doctorates, but holders of these don’t conventionally use the title “Doctor” in daily life; he never did get around to a Ph.D. (he was a bit busy with other stuff).

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Fair point. You stated this before.

  2. David Gerard said,

    June 28, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Gravatar

    Did I? I forgot :-) I’ve just never seen RMS claim the title of “Doctor” himself.

    (trivia: in poor countries like East Timor, where higher education is very rare, a bachelor’s degree gets you called “Doctor”. Best not use this elsewhere though ;-)

    Nice article, btw, been spreading it around.

What Else is New


  1. Links 31/7/2014: Zorin OS Educational 9, Android Nearing 90% Share

    Links for the day



  2. Microsoft-Linked Codenomicon and Bluebox in the Business of Smearing FOSS/Linux/Android

    odenomicon and Bluebox, two companies with strong Microsoft links, fill the media with negative articles about Android



  3. Is Microsoft Being Raided Not Just for Anti-Competitive Reasons but for Bribes and Back Doors?

    News about raids in Microsoft China mostly lacking when it comes to background, context, and information about Microsoft's crimes in China



  4. Former Microsoft Engineer Working on Windows BitLocker Confirms Government Asks Microsoft for Back Doors

    Recalling the times when even Microsoft staff spoke about secret government collaborations and back doors



  5. Ruling Against 'Abstract' Software Patents is Already Derailing Patent Attacks on Linux and Free Software

    Patent litigation against Android/Linux impeded by the introduction of arguments that cite the Supreme Court



  6. Links 30/7/2014: Chris Beard as CEO of Mozilla

    Links for the day



  7. New Optimism in the Age of Doubt Over Software Patents

    As the tide turns against software patents, even in their country of origin, their opponents come out of the woodwork to celebrate



  8. Links 28/7/2014: New Linux RC, Plasma 5 Live in Kubuntu

    Links for the day



  9. Links 27/7/2014: KDE 4.14 Beta 3, KDE 4.14 Beta 3 Released

    Links for the day



  10. Apple and Microsoft Are Proprietary Software Companies and the Media Should Stop Openwashing Them

    New examples where proprietary software giants are characterised as FOSS-embracing and FOSS-friendly by gullible or dishonest 'journalists'



  11. Bloomberg's Microsoft Propaganda

    Bloomberg delivers 'damage control' and PR ahead of the layoffs announcement; Microsoft uses Nokia to hide it and Bloomberg helps Microsoft by radically modifying headlines



  12. Frequency of Browser Back Doors in Microsoft Windows is Doubling

    The vulnerabilities which Microsoft tells the NSA about (before these are patched) are significantly growing in terms of their numbers



  13. FUD Entities Entering the FOSS World

    Symantec enters the AllSeen Alliance and Sonatype is once again trying to claim great insecurity in FOSS due to software licensing



  14. Groklaw Back in the Wake of ODF in the UK?

    Renewed activity in FOSS-leaning legal site Groklaw amid numerous victories for FOSS



  15. Links 26/7/2014: New Wine, Chromebooks Strong Sales

    Links for the day



  16. Links 25/7/2014: GOG With GNU/Linux, Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS

    Links for the day



  17. Links 24/7/2014: Oracle Linux 7; Fedora Delays

    Links for the day



  18. Valerie Strauss Explains Why Gates Foundation's Lobbying for 'Common Core' (Privatisation) is a Swindle That Makes Microsoft Richer

    Continued criticism of the Gates Foundation's lobbying and masquerading, with more journalists brave enough to highlight the corruption



  19. USPTO Officially Sets New Guidelines to Limit Scope of Software Patents in the United States

    Even patent lawyers finally acknowledge that the incentive to file software patent applications has been reduced, as the scope of patents on software has been noticeably narrowed and they are harder to acquire, let alone enforce in a courtroom



  20. UK Government Adopts OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft Already Attacks the Government Over It, Showing Absolutely No Commitment to Open Standards

    Only "Microsoft as the standard" is the 'standard' Microsoft is willing to accept, as its response to the Cabinet Office's judgment reveals



  21. Microsoft Layoffs of 2014

    Another quick look at Microsoft's horrible state of affairs and why it has virtually nothing to do with Nokia



  22. Links 22/7/2014: Linux 3.16 RC 6, New UberStudent

    Links for the day



  23. Links 20/7/2014: Jolla in India, Mega Censored in Italy

    Links for the day



  24. Longtime Mono Booster Joins Microsoft-linked Xamarin

    Jo Shields almost joins Microsoft, settling instead for its proxy, Xamarin



  25. Linux Foundation Welcomes Patent Aggressor Red Bend Software

    The Linux Foundation's AllSeen Alliance welcomes as a member a company that uses software patents to sue Free/Open Source software



  26. Matt Levy From Patent Progress (and CCIA) Does Not Really Want Patent Progress

    Matthew ('Matt') Levy moved into a foe of patent progress last year, but he still runs a site calls Patent Progress, in which he diverts all attention to patent trolls (as large corporations such as Microsoft like to do)



  27. Attacking FOSS by Ignoring/Overlooking Issues With Proprietary Software

    The biasing strategy which continues to be used to demonise Free/Open Source software (FOSS) along with some new examples



  28. Links 19/7/2014: CRUX 3.1 is Out, CyanogenMod Competes With Google Now

    Links for the day



  29. Microsoft's Massive Layoffs Go Far Beyond Nokia; Nokia's Android Phones Axed by Microsoft's Elop

    Microsoft's rapid demise and permanent exit from Nokia's last remaining Linux platform (after Microsoft had killed two more)



  30. Patents on Software Already Being Invalidated in Courts Owing to SCOTUS Ruling on 'Abstract' Patents

    The Federal Circuit Appeals Court has just "invalidated a software patent for being overly abstract," says a patents expert


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts