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04.15.14

Public Institutions Must Dump PRISM-Associated Software

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 9:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Kick the NSA

Image by Will Hill

Summary: Another reminder that taxpayers-subsidised services should refuse, as a matter of principle, to pay anything for — let alone deploy — proprietary software with back doors

A FEW days ago we spoke about those who choose PRISM at taxpayers' expense, essentially choosing spyware at the expense of taxpayers who will suffer from it. Glyn Moody has published a good article about how it’s done to the British public [1], where the government pays Microsoft a lot of money because Microsoft’s own software is very insecure. This is a problem not just here in the UK.

Mr. Pogson links to IDG reports that say US “Tax collector has 58,000 PCs still running the aged XP; will spend $30M to upgrade to Windows 7″ (not even immediately). There is more about this in the British press [2] and it turns out not to be the exception.

What’s worth noting, however, is that NSA works with Microsoft, a US-based company, so the above behaviour is even more irresponsible when done outside the US. There is an interesting new petition at Avaaz titled “Computers in the post-Snowden era: choose before paying!”

To quote: “When you buy a computer, a telephone, a tablet-pc, etc., you make your choice first, and then you pay. But meanwhile, quite often you first pay the licence of an operating system (Microsoft Windows, MacOS, etc) which you then choose to use or to replace with another one. As a result, the vast majority of us all use the operating system that mainly beneficiates from this forced sale. Our addiction is so high that even those actors that should be neutral in principle help this situation continue: state, administration, school, city administration, etc. We are thus technologically very dependent, hence vulnerable. Thanks to Edward Snowden, it is now established that intelligence agencies modify hardware (computers, routers, firewalls, etc) and software (Microsoft Windows, probably all Apple operating systems, probably one GNU-Linux distribution, etc) to massively listen to communications and illegally penetrate into computers.”

It is time to publicly chastise government institutions — more so than private businesses which are only accountable to themselves and the law — over use of spyware such as Microsoft Windows.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Windows XP: End of an Era, End of an Error

    This is little more than polite blackmail: if you don’t upgrade, your systems will become infected, you will lose data, and your reputation may well be ruined as a result. The stakes are incredibly high: the Microsoft-sponsored study I wrote about last week puts the global cost of flaws in Microsoft’s software at around $500 billion for 2014 alone.

    And yet despite the astonishing magnitude of the threat, laid out by Microsoft itself again and again, in various ways, people still stick with Windows XP. Really, there is no greater condemnation of Windows XP’s successors than the fact that huge swathes of Microsoft’s user base simply don’t want to upgrade.

    Shockingly, that applies to the UK government, too. Of course, they at least realise that they can’t simply carry on using Windows XP without at least nominal protection, but the price they pay for their stubborn refusal to move off XP is high…

  2. US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support

    The April 15 deadline for Americans to pay their federal income taxes is fast approaching, but the US Internal Revenue Service has already missed an important deadline of its own – namely, Microsoft’s end-of-support date for Windows XP.

  3. Windows XP Alive & Well in ICS/SCADA Networks

    End-of-life for XP support not raising many red flags in critical infrastructure environments, where patching is the exception.

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