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The Time for Freedom-Respecting Routers Has Come

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Hardware at 7:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Hardware sales are affected by the latest NSA revelations (back doors and flawed encryption) and now there is a window of opportunity for Free software alternatives

BACK in 2010 Cisco came under fire for what seemed like back doors in its routers. Well, Cisco sales have sunk overseas, so intelligence services seem to already know what Cisco is up to [1]. Meanwhile, there are decent alternatives in the making. Richard Stallman expressed interest in the Brisbane-based Open router project that we mentioned earlier this month. This project raised four thousand dollars recently [2] (a lot of development can involve integration, e.g. of Vyatta with hardware).

Now that companies have lost trust in proprietary software ‘clouds’ [3] and sales of NSA-affiliated hardware [4,5] are said to be falling (due to NSA) perhaps it’s time to take it as a sign of back doors being the ‘standard’ (HP hardware comes with back doors) and shift towards Free software which everyone can audit. Everyone would gain except Big Brother.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. NSA leaks blamed for Cisco’s falling sales overseas

    Chinese may see NSA revelations as a chance for payback for battle with Huawei.

  2. Brisbane devs raise $4k for open source router
  3. Companies view cloud as risky due to NSA

    A PwC survey released only last week found that 22% of German companies now see the risk of using cloud services as ‘very high,’ up from 6% before the leak; 54% overall say that risk is ‘high or very high.’

    Almost 40% said they were now looking at email encryption and 25% at encryption of mobile communications while another 15% want to switch to European tech providers that are not cooperating with American or British intelligence services. But how big the fallout will be is yet to be seen.

  4. Hardware Makers’ Business Suffering from NSA Spying
  5. NSA spying hurts business of large U.S. hardware makers
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  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    December 11, 2013 at 6:51 am


    There is already a fair amount of useful hardware on the market. On much of it, it is possible to build powerful L2 and L3 routers using Quagga or Zebra and iptables on Linux or OpenBGP and PF on BSD.

    What’s needed is more publicity of established sites where such technology is already used in production to reach the do-it-in-house crowd. However, there are a lot of managers that want off-the-shelf with irrational fervor. These can only be reached by companies offering ready “solutions” from a catalog. Such companies can make progress, but will have a hard time beating the marketing budget (including “free” “training” and “free” meals) of Cisco.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Ubuntu has just got a hardware partner. It will be interesting to receive some details on hardware compatibility with an entirely free/libre software stack.

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    I hadn’t thought of that before. Canonical could possibly make a lot of money on networking the way Red Hat has made on servers. Being open source / free software is also a major security and privacy selling point. At the worst it only means the buyer can swap in other free software on the hardware.

    It would mean a lot of kernel work though. That’s not an area where Canonical has historically been active.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Canonical only joined the Linux Foundation at a very late stage.

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