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06.12.15

Badische Zeitung Labels European Patent Office (EPO) a Police State for Use of Very Intrusive Mass Surveillance Software (Updated)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Badische Zeitung

HufnagelM; CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Summary: Calls for changes at the EPO have spread to the largest media in German, adding to existing pressure on Battistelli and his ilk

The latest German press report about the EPO comes from Badische Zeitung which, according to Wikipedia, “is a German newspaper based in Freiburg im Breisgau, covering the Black Forest region. It has a circulation of 145,825 and a readership of 409,000.”

The article talks about the keyloggers which we wrote about a few days ago. We received an English translation [PDF] of the article. Here it is:

European Patent Office: Conditions redolent of a police state

At the European Patent Office, computers were spied on using cameras and surveillance software. A climate of industrial unrest prevails.

Bizarre shenanigans at the European Patent Office.
Photo: DPA

Friday, 12th June 2015
By: Thomas Magenheim
Published in the print edition of the Badische Zeitung

MUNICH. The European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich and its President, Benoit Battistelli, show no signs of settling down. Towards the end of last year, publicly accessible computers at the EPO were secretly monitored using cameras and surveillance software over a period of several weeks as confirmed by a number of insiders. The Federal Ministry of Justice in Berlin under Heiko Maas (SPD) is also informed about the incident.

As a result of the surveillance a member of EPO Boards of Appeal was suspended because he is alleged to have disseminated defamatory statements about the Office and its managers. The EPO which is not subject to national German law has refused to comment.

On the other hand, the Bavarian Data Protection Commissioner Thomas Petri has spoken out about the affair. He has requested that an external data protection supervisor be assigned to the EPO because the internal inspectors are not independent enough and in the absence of any action matters are likely to get out of hand. Such a demand is, however, not enforceable. That became clear recently following the judgment of a Dutch court which confirmed that the EPO was violating fundamental rights. Battistelli declared that the court had no jurisdiction and he ignored its ruling. The controversial President also prohibited a demonstration and although such an action might not be justified under German law, the extraordinary legal status of the EPO allowed him to get away with it.

For months now a battle has been raging at the EPO headquarters in Munich between Battistelli and many of the approximately 7,000 employees. The President is reforming the Office at the behest of the 38 Member States and he is far from squeamish in the manner in which he goes about it. Battistelli has therefore been placed under an obligation by the EPO’s Administrative Council to restore social peace at the EPO. However, the recent revelations about the surveillance affair now seem likely to torpedo these efforts.

“I no longer use my office computer to access any pages which might raise suspicions about me and also only use my private phone outside the EPO because everything can be intercepted,” said an EPA employee who wishes to remain anonymous. Many of his colleagues expressed similar sentiments. The goings-on inside the EPO nowadays resemble what was previously thought to only occur in China or at the FIFA. The computers which were under surveillance are actually installed for use by patent attorneys when they are at the EPO in order to allow them to communicate with their clients for the purpose of exchanging documents. Members of the EPO’s Administrative Council might also use them when the Council is in session. During the period of surveillance such a meeting of the Council was scheduled. This means that both patent attorneys and delegates to the Administrative Council could have been affected by the surveillance. The EPO declined to answer questions as to whether this was an isolated case or whether more actions of this kind are currently in progress stating that any questions concerning this matter “refer to a procedure that is currently pending and subject to strict confidentiality”.

In the meantime it remains unclear whether or not the suspended EPO staff member was really guilty of defamation or whether he was merely stating the truth. His remarks reportedly referred to the EPO Vice-President, Željko Topić, and included allegations of corruption relating to his time at the Croatian Patent Office.

The EPO staff union SUEPO has now declared the peace talks with Battistelli to be suspended. For the next Council meeting on June 23, it has called for renewed protest and it has appealed to the Federal Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas, to tackle the matter. The Federal Ministry of Justice points to the EPO’s status of immunity. Whatever about that, the issue of internal data protection has now cropped up on the agenda.

This serves to confirm that anyone questioning the potency, qualifications or ethics of Željko Topić, despite corruption and court rulings that support allegations of corruption, is now being threatened. It’s an imposition of self censorship. This is very reminiscent of the way China deals with dissidents.

Update (15/6/2015): There is a similar article in another German paper and another translation, including additional text [PDF].

The World is Already Leaving Microsoft Windows Behind, in Favour of ODF, Free Software, and GNU/Linux (Usually in Turn)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Office Suites, OpenDocument, Standard, Windows at 6:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Windows too old and long in the tooth

Windows

Summary: The ongoing migration of various governments to Free/libre software contributes to the demise of Microsoft’s monopoly and common carrier

“REPORTS suggest Windows phone users are jumping ship with sales in rapid decline,” said the British media earlier this week (title is “Microsoft has a very big problem”). Linux and Android are certainly still gaining. When one switches completely to GNU/Linux, embrace of OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Free/libre software is often implied. It’s virtually imperative. It’s like the ultimate and most complete switch, whereas embrace of open standards or Free software alone tends to be ‘softer’ or rather restrained, staged, and at times hesitant. There is lobbying against each at varying (depending on perceived risk or severity) levels of granularity.

“Someone inside GE recently told me that GE was quietly dumping Windows for Linux in its lucrative CT scanners business.”Microsoft is in trouble and there is no denying that.

According to British media, Vista 8 continues to be a disaster technically and in some nations, unsurprisingly, GNU/Linux has greater market share than the latest Vista (Windows 8.1). The desktop monopoly too is in jeopardy, especially where governments made it their policy to embrace Free/libre software (Uruguay and Venezuela in this case).

Here in the UK the National Health Service (NHS), longtime prisoner of Microsoft, is putting up resistance and considering Free software in a growing number of operations. Making the huge mistake of putting Microsoft Windows in medical devices or facilities is not forgivable. Someone inside GE recently told me that GE was quietly dumping Windows for Linux in its lucrative CT scanners business. According to this new report, X-ray scanners (causing cancer) are behaving badly because of Windows. To quote: “the device proved an easy target. TrapX’s team was able to use an exploit for a known weakness in the Windows 2000 operating system to establish what TrapX refers to as a “pivot” – or point of control- on their test network from which they could attack other systems. After creating a backdoor into the device, TrapX researchers added a new user to the system and decrypted the local user password. The company was then able to extract the database files that would contain medical information.”

“In due course, having removed the Office barrier/hurdle, HMRC can move to GNU/Linux because Google is purely Web-based.”This can become ground for many lawsuits from patients or families of dead patients. This is the sort of scandal that ought to push all British government departments which still use Windows XP immediately to GNU/Linux. No version of Windows is secure; the underlying encryption (proprietary) tends to have back doors. Every piece of proprietary software must be assumed insecure until proven otherwise (by becoming Free software and standards-compliant). There are moves in this direction, namely of standards, in Sweden [1] and in Holland [2,3], with calls growing for the NHS to embrace openness [4]. There is an increasing push towards Free/libre software, not just open standards (which relate to one another). The governments in Europe should move to Free software like LibreOffice, where interoperability becomes trivial, to borrow Andy Updegrove’s latest arguments [5], but alas, as we noted the other day (alluding to the UK, Sweden, and India), HMRC is moving from one proprietary office suite to another. Here is the ‘damage control’ from Microsoft, which is trying to avoid the impression of being dumped. To quote the British press, “MICROSOFT HAS HIT BACK at claims that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has dumped the firm in favour of Google’s cloud apps.

“The move, first reported at The Register, will see 70,000 HMRC employees switching from Microsoft’s productivity offering to Google’s cloud-based apps services.”

Google will emphasise ODF support (open standards), but it is not Free/libre software. In due course, having removed the Office barrier/hurdle, HMRC can move to GNU/Linux because Google is purely Web-based. HMRC’s footsteps are likely to be followed by other British government departments (owing to ODF as a national requirement for editable document), taking away some of Microsoft’s most lucrative contracts (British government) and showing other governments across the world that they too can dump Microsoft and proprietary software, not just Windows. Office is the cash cow, Windows is the common carrier. The demise of one leads to the demise of the other.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Sweden refines specifications of open standards

    Sweden’s governmental procurement specialists at Statens inköpscentral are fine-tuning the list of ICT standards that public authorities may use as mandatory requirements when procuring software and ICT services. The procurement agency is working with standardisation specialists at the University of Skövde, to check which ICT standards are truly open.

  2. Dutch MP wants sanctions to enforce open standards

    Public administrations that continue to ignore the policy to implement open standards in their ICT solutions should be fined, says Dutch MP Astrid Oosenbrug. “Public administrations should come to grips with open data, open standards and open source. With all their talk about regaining the trust of their citizens and creating a participatory society, public administrations should take a cue from open source communities.”

  3. Dutch government agency switches core services to open source

    Public administrations that switch to open source regain financial scalability, says Jan-Taeke Schuilenga, IT architect at DUO, the Dutch government agency managing the financing of the country’s educational institutions. “We had reached the limit of proprietary licence possibilities. Switching to open source gave us freedom of choice.”

  4. Open data could save the NHS hundreds of millions, says top UK scientist

    The UK government must open up and highlight the power of more basic data sets to improve patient care in the NHS and save hundreds of millions of pounds a year, Nigel Shadbolt, chairman of the Open Data Institute (ODI) has urged.

  5. Licensing Standards that Include Code: Heads or Tails?

    Once upon a time, standards were standards and open source software was open source software (OSS), and the only thing people worried about was whether the copyright and patent rules relating to the standards would prevent them from being implemented in OSS. Actually, that was complicated enough, but it seems simple in comparison now that OSS is being included in the standards themselves. Now what?

    If this sounds unusual and exotic, it isn’t. In fact, code has been creeping into standards for years, often without the keepers of the intellectual property rights (IPR) Policies governing the standards even being aware of it.

The Disturbing Rise of Openwashing: Today’s Case of Apple and Microsoft

Posted in Apple, Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 5:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Proprietary is not “Open Source”, it’s the very opposite of it

Watercolour

Summary: Apple and Microsoft are trying to change their colours (public perception), but underneath this thin cover the same old spots remain

NON-TECHNICAL FOLKS may easily be led into the illusion of ‘open’ Microsoft and ‘open’ Apple (openwashing), much like that of ‘green’ (and yellow) BP or ‘green’ Shell (greenwashing). There is also whitewashing, e.g. of Bill Gates, but these two examples are different matters. They all involve mass deception with a huge budget. it’s quite a theatre!

We have patiently watched hundreds of headlines about Apple. Some talking points were mentioned even in Linux sites/blogs of Swapnil Bhartiya [1, 2], not just a lot of general news sites [1, 2, 3]. Bloomberg went as far as saying that Apple has gone “open source” (that was the headline!), so we decided a rebuttal was needed. It reminded us of what Microsoft had done with .NET last year, re-announcing the news almost every week, even this week (using the term “Open Source .NET”, despite the fine prints that refute it; we wrote numerous articles to rebut that).

Bloomberg went as far as saying that Apple has gone “open source” (that was the headline!), so we decided a rebuttal was needed.”Here is ECT’s coverage of the Apple PR (there are literally hundreds more like it), complemented even by this tacit endorsement from Jim Zemlin [1, 2]. He claims “Developer Applause”. “It’s inspiring to see companies like Apple and Microsoft validate the work we’ve been doing for more than two decades,” Zemlin writes. “Applause” is the bizarre word here; it was also used by Sam Dean, speaking ‘on behalf’ of what he calls “Open Source” (some recent Web-centric poll, involving only about 100 subjects, also tried to paint Apple users/developers “Open Source” developers because they work on Web sites using Macs). We reject these claims based on observations and we are going to show some real responses from the real “Open Source” community, not some Apple fans who label themselves “Open Source” and label Apple likewise (often citing Apple marketing material/sites).

Digital Trends asked, “what’s in it for Apple?”

That’s a good question and it’s not hard to answer. In the “Open Source” community not everyone is enthusiastic at all, except perhaps Apple fans and people who buy stuff from Apple (including software) while wishing to label themselves “open”. It’s a branding exercise, putting aside API lock-in.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols asked (in his headline), “Just how open will Apple allow Swift to be?”

“Some people love that Apple is open sourcing its Swift programming languages,” he wrote. “Others are taking a wait-and-see attitude about just how ‘open’ Apple will make Swift.”

Simon Phipps, the outgoing OSI President (i.e. top authority for the “Open Source” brand), wrote that “questions loom over ‘open source’ Swift”. “Programming languages alone don’t make programs,” he wrote, but “the SDKs they leverage are the key. When Apple speaks of the SDKs that work well with Swift, it is highly unlikely it is talking about anything that works seamlessly on Android or indeed within any other Linux-based open source platform (not to mention Windows).

“Swift may be offering lip service to open source to pay table stakes with modern developers, but I’m not holding my breath when it comes to extending software freedom to anyone beyond Apple’s walled garden.”

Larry Cafiero, an “Open Source” proponent for many years, wrote: “While there have been no injury reports yet from the multitudes simultaneously jumping on the Swift-as-open-source bandwagon — and no shortage of “Apple to tailor Swift to open source” headlines (can someone hand me an air-sickness bag?) — you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t share the rampant enthusiasm for a couple of reasons.

“To be clear, like Microsoft’s foray into FOSS, Apple’s entry is a small step for FOSS, to paraphrase Neil Armstrong. It is hardly a giant leap for FOSSkind.”

Many others are refuting Apple’s and Microsoft’s recent claims of “embracing” FOSS (for languages or SDKs). These are self-serving moves, intended to make people blobs-dependent (whose blobs? their own!).

Microsoft openwasher Cade Metz weighed in too. Referring to his article, our reader iophk wrote: “One of thousands of articles, but doesn’t this noise obscure the fact that it is still locked in to iOS and OS X? I thought Objective C at least was cross-platform, except for a few libraries.”

Despite these obvious facts, the Linux.com “administrator” (perhaps meaning editor) went with flattery for Apple just earlier today. It also flattered Microsoft for trying to trap GNU/Linux (two bird with one stone), having recently openwashed Vista 10 using the modified (by him/her) headline “Microsoft’s Big Secret Windows 10 Feature is Open Source” (because of the Linux Foundation-connected AllSeen Alliance).

We are rather disturbed to see Apple and Microsoft openwashing even in the Linux Foundation’s sites, this latest example referencing a Microsoft puff pieces for Vista 10. They are now attempting to openwash it because of one paragraph that says: “Microsoft announced last November Windows 10 would pack a technology called AllJoyn. An open source framework that encourages devices to be interoperable, AllJoyn was developed by the AllSeen Alliance, a group of more than 150 companies including the likes of Electrolux, Honeywell, LG, and Qualcomm that have banded together to make an open standard for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to speak to each other.”

That’s about as bad as calling Microsoft “open source” because it continues to compile proprietary spyware Skype for GNU/Linux, except GNU/Linux that threatens Microsoft’s desktop monopoly (Chromebooks). As the British media put it the other day, “MICROSOFT is continuing to shun Google’s Chrome OS, opening up its browser-based Skype for Web service to all except those using a Google Chromebook.”

To summarise, don’t fall for the illusion that Microsoft and Apple are somehow ‘embracing’ FOSS; they are trying to exploit the “Open Source” brand to attract people to their proprietary crown jewels. That’s an entirely different thing.

Kaspersky Reminds Us of the Dangers of Microsoft Windows

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 4:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Eugene Kaspersky

Summary: State-sponsored malware which targets Microsoft Windows serves to show that Windows should be banned, especially in important operations

Two readers of ours wrote to us about Kaspersky coming under Stuxnet-like attacks. We have been shown articles that completely fail to call out Windows. Some call it “state-sponsored malware attacks”. We previously wrote about Kaspersky’s rants regarding US patents [1, 2], Windows, and Windows in nuclear facilities. We recently wrote about attempted US attacks on North Korea's nuclear facilities, targeting Windows. It is rather amazing that despite mountains of evidence that Windows is not secure (often a politically-motivated trap), some states are still eager or at least willing to allow Windows installations (infestations).

Trapping GNU/Linux in Proprietary Software Environments (Hosts)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 4:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Countering the ludicrous suggestion that running GNU/Linux under proprietary environments is a worthwhile compromise

ONE of the clear advantages of GNU/Linux is that it improves security through transparency and empowers the user (or administrator, not the same as host) by giving full control to the user. A lot of this control, security and more broadly freedom get lost when people host in so-called ‘clouds’ which are proprietary and remotely managed, even spied on. Examples include Amazon (quite famously), but Microsoft too wants a piece of the pie. A lot of media deception, echoing lies from Microsoft representatives, lulls various people and lures them into a dangerous trap.

“A lot of media deception, echoing lies from Microsoft representatives, lulls various people and lures them into a dangerous trap.”This rather bizarre new piece which compares ancient Rome to software ends with troubling words. “The moral of the story,” it says, is that ganging up against common enemies is a possibility. “In today’s tech world,” the author says, “Athens is Open Source; Sparta is traditional commercial vendors; and Rome is… well, it depends on where you stand. When I first wrote this piece, I had Microsoft in mind. Today, perhaps Amazon is a better fit. Will the outcome be the same? Or will Athens and Sparta realize they have a common enemy?”

By “commercial” the author means proprietary. Some want us to believe that a liaison between Free/libre software and proprietary is a necessary thing.

The proprietary Hyper-V, which is NSA-friendly by definition (it runs on Windows), is advertised for hosting of GNU/Linux virtual instances (VMs) over at IDG, which does a lot to promote Microsoft’s agenda these days, including dissemination of lies about the cost of Vista 10 [1, 2, 3].

Microsoft already monitors (PRISM style) VMs that run GNU/Linux if administrators are dumb enough to choose Microsoft as a host, but Simon Sharwood and others [1, 2] insist that Microsoft wants to ‘help’ GNU/Linux by providing monitoring tools:

Microsoft is finally noticing that most for the workloads on Virtual Machines on Azure are actually Linux-powered, and they are finally releasing the necessary tools to monitor those workloads.

Microsoft openwasher Maria Deutscher [1, 2, 3] went as far calling it an “open-source push”. Well, it is proprietary, not “open source”, but let’s imagine otherwise, at least for Microsoft’s PR department (Deutscher has been doing a lot to help it this year).

There is no wisdom in joining hands with Microsoft and no point to it in general. People who somehow were led to believe that “Microsoft loves Linux” (inside Azure only) surely delude themselves, as Microsoft would always hope. True quotes from Microsoft are laid out below; click to read the revealing document in full. Microsoft is no ally of GNU/Linux. It’s dangerous to even think that it is.

Microsoft dirty tactics

19,000 Blog Posts

Posted in Site News at 3:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fireworks

Summary: Finally reaching another noteworthy milestone for this site, which is approaching one decade in age and has accomplished some important goals

WIKI AND BLOG posts combined would probably approach 20,000 pages, plus some pages in Drupal and in static HTML (exhibits, PDF files, IRC logs, etc.), but as far as the blog posts are concerned, we are now at 19,000, which is a very large number. Google to estimated have indexed 73,000 unique pages for Techrights, plus 9,200 for Boycott Novell. Thanks to all those who have supported us over the years. Readers are the motivation. There is a lot more to come, no matter the growing number of DDOS attacks against us (we have just upgraded our hardware to help defend against them).

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