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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.

Microsoft Gets Its Money’s Worth From Xamarin: PlayStation 4 Now Polluted by Microsoft

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Mono at 4:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The Trojan horse of Microsoft, Xamarin, is pushing .NET into Microsoft’s console competitor

EARLIER this month we learned about Xamarin signing deals with Microsoft after receiving funds from the firm of ‘former’ Microsoft executives. Those two entities not only collaborate on code inside Mono but they also collaborate on many other things, including, based on Phoronix, infecting the PlayStation 4 like they tried to infect Android for years. “For those wanting to work on console games in C#, Mono’s PlayStation 4 support work appears to be progressing well,” Phoronix explains, citing Microsoft MVP Miguel de Icaza, who has more to say.

Never think that people who work for Microsoft will do anything other than promote Microsoft’s agenda. The firm Black Duck, created by a Microsoft manager (and now enjoying a special partnership with Microsoft), is still pretending to be a spokesperson for FOSS. How gross is that?

04.11.14

Going Bankrupt (or Wasting Taxpayers’ Money) With Microsoft and PRISM

Posted in Microsoft at 9:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Everyone should get fired for buying into PRISM

PRISM

Summary: The leaks from Edward Snowden show that rather than “nobody gets fired for buying Microsoft” we should adopt the “everyone should get fired for buying Microsoft” (the seminal company behind PRISM)

According to this post from Lauren Weinstein, one New York-based store learned the hard way that it should have stayed away from Microsoft. “The store has now suddenly closed,” he writes. “Apparently the new Microsoft software didn’t work out as hoped, at least as far as the storefront is concerned.”

What kind of a store chooses to rely on Microsoft for business? Probably the type of store owned by people who grew up with nothing but Windows and are sometimes shocked (paralysis) into thinking that nothing except Microsoft would be suitable. We see a lot of the same thinking in governments where, unlike when it comes to a private business, buyers are liable to citizens who foot the bill. In Australia, for example, politicians or their ‘technical’ staff have just chosen to be spied on by the NSA through Microsoft. And believe it or not, they even pay Microsoft for this ‘privilege’ to be spied on (well, the taxpayers are paying, without even the opportunity to vote on this matter). How negligent — to put it politely — must the CIO(s) have been?

As iophk put it: “Now they lost control over their data. In the EU the exit cost is taken into account when assessing the TCO. Here it looks like it wasn’t. Queensland could have saved more and still kept their data if they had moved to Apache OpenOffice or to LibreOffice.

Politicians within and outside the US should never host anything with Microsoft, ever. Microsoft is collaborating with the NSA, which spies not only on government officials in ‘ally’ countries but also inside the United States (as it recently confirmed). Software like Skype is a spy and Microsoft’s E-mail hosting is known to be spied on by Microsoft for business reasons, not security reasons. It’s a crime, but nobody is in jail. It’s done in collusion with the state.

CIOs and business heads who choose Microsoft despite all that is known (especially after the NSA leaks) probably deserve to be fired. Watch how DPI giant BT (which also assists in drone assassinations) falsely claims access to Microsoft Azure to be “secure” (a ‘secure’ link to GCHQ, NSA, etc. through abusive monopolist Microsoft). This is PRISM in disguise of “security”.

Nobody should ever host anything at all on Microsoft servers. Those who do ‘on behalf’ of citizens (and at their expense) certainly don’t deserve to keep their jobs. They are aiding illegal surveillance and their choice is also technically unwise (which is another issue that we tackled in past years).

Microsoft: Let’s Talk About Heartbleed® (Reported by Our ‘Former’ Security Chief) While the World Migrates From XP to GNU/Linux

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Windows at 8:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Looking through the tube

Summary: Government the only likely entity to exploit Heartbleed®, but Microsoft and its peripheral PR apparatus try to scare everyone away from GNU/Linux

A LOT of concerned people, including large businesses, are moving to GNU/Linux for improved security right now (I am aware of some businesses but cannot name them), bearing in mind that Windows XP is no longer secure even in Microsoft’s eyes. Microsoft put back doors in Windows (for governments), so when even Microsoft claims something to be not secure, then it should be ever more alarming.

We are still seeing many articles about migration from Windows XP to GNU/Linux, not just in blogs of GNU/Linux advocates [1,2,3] but also in Microsoft-friendly news sites [4], widely-distributed publications like The Economist [5] (typically GNU/Linux-hostile or just ignoring GNU/Linux), GNU/Linux-oriented sites [6,7], and the Linux Foundation [8]. There are other general news sites [9-12] that cover this (suggesting GNU/Linux as a replacement for XP) and on the other hand there are those in the GNU/Linux world who are apathetic about it [13]. The common theme, however, is rather clear. People are being advised to explore GNU/Linux and jump off the treadmill of Windows ‘upgrades’. Microsoft must be worried. There are many confirmatory indicators of this worry — ones that we covered before.

We recently saw a lot of FUD over GNU/Linux security coming from Microsoft-linked sources, basically inciting/creating unnecessary panic by twisting facts and never mentioning Microsoft’s security issues (some are there by design, like NSA back doors or even FBI entry points).

Someone who worked for the FBI (worse than the NSA by some criteria) and then Microsoft (the back doors partner of the NSA) then revealed Heartbleed®, on the very same date that Windows XP is officially dead. What’s the likelihood that this was a coincidence? Microsoft’s ‘former’ security chief sure helped distract from stuff like the articles about moving to GNU/Linux for security. If it was a stunt, then it sure worked like a charm.

Heartbleed® does not seem like the work of secret agencies [14], but it sure helps them a lot [15], undermining activism [16] and Free software [17], as well as security in Apple and Microsoft products (they use OpenSSL too and they still have no patches, unlike GNU/Linux distributions). Pay attention to how Microsoft boosters like Miguel de Icaza twist this to look like a problem only for GNU/Linux. Microsoft propagandist and partner Tony Bradley (he works with Microsoft) plants some FOSS-hostile articles to that effect [18] as well. Microsoft must be having a day field with its PR/propaganda agents. As we expected, Microsoft partners now spread articles full of FUD — stuff which was published in a timely fashion by a Microsoft-linked firm, exactly upon Windows XP EOL. Watch some timely new revisionism (PR) from Microsoft Peter, using false claims (changing history) to push people to ‘upgrade’ from XP to Vista 8. This is not journalism; it’s advertising from a Microsoft booster who infiltrated a news site. Many sites are still affected by Heartbleed®, but reports from Microsoft-friendly journalists (who were behind some of the previous security smears against GNU/Linux) exaggerate the numbers. At my job, for example, no Web site was found to be affected by Heartbleed® (one can check this online [19]). The main source of danger right now is government spies [20,21] (or government crackers). Those who understand the technical details [20] even guess that government actors may have played a role in putting the bug there [22]. The FSF responded by highlighting the fact that proprietary system have back doors by design [23] (the FSF says “Microsoft are even sharing bugs with others like the NSA without fixing them”) and other GNU/Linux-oriented sites did cover the incident, but not with an excessive sense of panic [24-29], unlike Gates-funded papers [30].

To summarise, what we are dealing with here is an incident where the firm of Microsoft’s ‘former’ security chief shares bugs with the whole world irresponsibly (many sites had not been secured by that time in which his firm decided to release details, exactly when XP hits EOL). And having checked customers’ systems overnight, I found that nothing was affected by this OpenSSL bug. Irresponsible reporting from Microsoft-friendly journalists (with history) claims — falsely — that 2/3 of the Web is affected. Talk about appalling FUD. Wow!

One sure thing is, Chromebook sales are not going to be stopped by it, not even by Microsoft's attack ads (hypocritical FUD is now central to Microsoft’s official strategy and there is no hiding it).

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Good News And Bad News Depending On Whether Or Not You Enslave People To Wintel
  2. OEMs Aren’t Going To Replace XP With GNU/Linux. Real People Have To Do That
  3. What To Do With XP PCs

    If you think you can’t do without XP, think again. I have not touched an XP machine or any other OS from M$ for years now because all my PCs run GNU/Linux. If you think you can’t do without some application that only runs on XP or any other OS from M$, think again. Many millions of users of GNU/Linux don’t have those problems that M$ causes: malware, spyware, re-re-reboots, and lock-in.

  4. Windows XP’s Demise Will Help Linux Leapfrog Mac OS X 10.9

    Linux is frequently touted as one of the most successful open-source projects ever. Since its release in the 90s, the versatile OS has gradually become more popular with users. With a 1.49% market share, Linux is now rated the third-most popular PC operating system after Windows and Mac OS X operating systems.

  5. End of the road for Windows XP

    But to what? For those determined to stay in the Microsoft camp, forget Windows 8 or 8.1. Not only do they demand too much in the way of hardware, both have been been written off as a debacle as bad as the Windows Vista disaster. With their touch-based design, they require users to do things differently from the way they are familiar with. Microsoft is now hurrying out Windows 9 in a bid to pre-empt a mass migration to Linux or Macintosh.

  6. A Beginners Guide for XP Users to Switch to Linux

    Microsoft has ended its support for Windows XP and most of you might not even care but for some of you who do care and understand the complications involved in using a discontinued piece of software, you are in for a change. You can either install already outdated Windows 7, no one’s favourite Windows 8 or you can join the elite group of Linux users by installing on of the many available flavours of Linux.

  7. Windows XP and the Changing Calculus of Technology Choice

    One reason technology choices are so difficult is technology is always a work in progress; your one choice has lasting consequences since the technology rarely ever lives on its own, and most good technology is never done — that is unless you’re Windows XP. As most of us know, Microsoft today is turning off support for Windows XP. That means that roughly 30 percent of all Windows users will cease to get security updates and other ongoing maintenance. Since hackers disproportionately target Windows products, this is a big deal.

  8. Replace the Retiring Windows XP with Linux
  9. Windows XP orphaned: 1/3 of computer users vulnerable

    RMS is the guru of computing freedom, and a great source. He started the “hack” movement as an outsider inside MIT during the Vietnam protesting era, and founded both the GNU software movement and the Free S/W Foundation. He seems (to me) to be highly-influenced by socialist ideals.

  10. Forget About Windows XP, Tranform Your Linux Mint in Windows 7

    In this case, Linux Mint 16 is the perfect candidate for a Windows 7 look-alike transformation and the Windows7 Pack (Cinnamon+ GTK3/2) theme works like a charm. You will have to move the files manually in the appropriate folders, but the themes should be easy to activate.

  11. Open Source Alternatives For Windows XP

    To simplify the downloading and installing, collections of these many software components, called “distributions“, are available ready for users to download and start using straight away.

  12. Windows XP Alternatives: Six Linux Distros to Replace Microsoft’s Ageing OS

    On Tuesday, Microsoft finally end support for one of its most successful operating systems, the 13-year-old Windows XP. Owing to this, there will no longer be any official security updates and bug fixes from the company, meaning those who continue to use the OS will be left vulnerable to security threats.

  13. Why I don’t care about the end of Windows XP

    Frankly, I’ve never liked Windows XP. I found the interface to be an eyesore way back when it was first released and using it never improved the experience. I’m very glad to see that it’s going away finally, it’s demise has been been long overdue. I’m rather surprised that it has hung on this long, given that it was never all that anyway. It’s almost become like some sort of a disease you can’t quite get rid of, it just goes on and on and on.

  14. Heartbleed coder: bug in OpenSSL was an honest mistake

    The Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL wasn’t placed there deliberately, according to the coder responsible for the mistake.

  15. The Real Threat From The Heartbleed Security Flaw Is The NSA

    “The best guess is that the only ones exploiting this bug are spy agencies, if anyone at all.”

  16. Why the Web Needs Perfect Forward Secrecy More Than Ever
  17. LibreOffice 4.2.3 arrives with Heartbleed fix
  18. Is open source to blame for the Heartbleed bug?
  19. Test Sites for Heartbleed OpenSSL Vulnerability
  20. Wild at Heart: Were Intelligence Agencies Using Heartbleed in November 2013?
  21. heartbleed vs malloc.conf
  22. Heartbleed

    At this point, the probability is close to one that every target has had its private keys extracted by multiple intelligence agencies. The real question is whether or not someone deliberately inserted this bug into OpenSSL, and has had two years of unfettered access to everything. My guess is accident, but I have no proof.

  23. Free Software Foundation statement on Heartbleed vulnerability
  24. FOSS Community Hustles to Fix Gaping Heartbleed Flaw
  25. Fedora status on “Heartbleed”
  26. Fedora releases openssl security updates
  27. The Internet Goes Nuts with OpenSSL Bug Today, Linux Systems Were Fixed Yesterday
  28. How to find out if your server is affected from Openssl Heartbleed vulnerability (CVE-2014-0160) and how to fix that
  29. Heartbeat SSL Flaw Puts Linux Distros at Risk
  30. Heartbleed: Hundreds of thousands of servers at risk from catastrophic bug
  31. Google jumps on Windows XP’s demise with Chromebook for business offer

    GOOGLE HAS BEEN QUICK to jump on the demise of Windows XP, and is looking to persuade businesses still running the operating system to buy Google Chromebooks instead.

Replicating the Destruction of Dual Boot (GNU/Linux) by Microsoft-Friendly UEFI Implementations

Posted in Antitrust, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows at 7:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hammer

Summary: Reports of “loss of Linux dual-booting” due to Windows Update are investigated further; FSF award to Garrett faces opposition

IT WAS recently reported in Reddit that UEFI was used by Microsoft Windows to wipe out GNU/Linux. Windows Update rendered GNU/Linux unbootable and allegedly turned ‘secure’ boot on to achieve this.

According to this new analysis from Jamie the UEFI explorer, it’s not an isolated incident. He starts by stating: “I can finally report that yes, there is a problem — but it’s generally not as serious as has been reported.” He also writes: “While I found that I was able to ‘fix’ the loss of Linux dual-booting on both of my systems, I am NOT trying to say that everyone who has posted claims about dual-boot being ‘destroyed’ by Windows Update is wrong. I certainly have enough experience with UEFI boot configuration to know that all sorts of strange things are possible, and it may well be that some systems, with some configurations, really do get more seriously damaged by Windows Update than mine have. One very obvious example might be that the Linux items could get deleted from the boot object list. If that happened you would have to use efibootmgr to put them back again.”

But who would know how to do this and how many people would just turn away from GNU/Linux at this stage? This is why UEFI should face a boycott and antitrust complaints against Microsoft get bolstered. I wholeheartedly disgree with FSF for giving Garrett an award. This can be a PR disaster waiting to happen, a bit like Miguel de Icaza and Theo de Raadt and getting such an award before their FSF bashing. Apparently I am not alone in disagreeing with the FSF; Sam Varghese expressed similar concerns, having opposed ‘secure’ boot for quite some time along with many others. He writes: “The Free Software Foundation has given an annual award this year for work that enslaves people to the demands of Microsoft – something that flies in the face of all that the organisation has stood for since its founding.”

This has indeed been a bizarre move and it can help weaken existing complaints (in Europe) over Microsoft’s UEFI tricks.

Miguel ‘Advocates’ GNU/Linux by Bashing it Again

Posted in FUD, Microsoft, Mono at 6:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Miguel de Icaza tweet

Summary: Days after signing yet another alliance/partnership with Microsoft Miguel de Icaza shows the world just how much he ‘loves’ Free software

THERE IS already some (foreseen) Microsoft propaganda over an OpenSSL flaw. And as someone in the above thread points out: “Funny since openssl was patched in Linux in less than an hour and it affects Microsoft too, which doesn’t have a patch yet… Where is everyone screaming at Microsoft? Propaganda, propaganda everywhere!”

As we’ll show later today, a lot of anti-FOSS propaganda of this kind has come out and it typically comes from people who are professionally tied to Microsoft, such as Miguel de Icaza. Heck, even the firm that reported the bug is intrinsically tied to Microsoft.

Miguel de Icaza is promoting Microsoft again this week. He does not even hide it. He writes: “We are very excited about the release of [Microsoft] Roslyn, it is an amazing piece of technology and one of the most sophisticated compiler designs available. A great place to learn great C# idioms and best practices [5], and a great foundation for great tooling for C# and VB.”

Next time you hear of Miguel de Icaza remember that he is working with Microsoft, based on some of the latest news. Xamarin should be treated as nothing more than a department of Microsoft.

04.09.14

A Call to Ban/Stop Big ‘Patent Trolls’ Like Nokia, Microsoft, and Apple

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Patents at 5:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent stooges

Summary: Reporting in corporate media generally lacks focus on patent abuse by large companies, but Topix has a long noteworthy article

PATENT coverage has been scarce here recently because corporations won. They warped the debate in such a way that almost no articles criticise software patents anymore; the focus has been shifted to small trolls and politicians are, accordingly, ignoring the big issue, instead pursuing fake ‘reforms’ that hardly address any concerns, other than the concerns of big corporations (it’s like Obama’s so-called ‘reform’ of the NSA). Here for a change is a good Topix article titled “How to Really Fix Patents – and Why Congress Is Unlikely to Do It” (via Glyn Moody).

The article says: “The total loss to the economy caused by junk patents far exceeds $29 billion per year when one takes into account that big companies act like patent trolls too, by obtaining junk patents to keep out their competitors.”

It also states that: “The real costs of junk patents are easy to imagine when you consider some of the egregious patents that should never have existed to begin with. Patent No. 5,851,117 was granted in 1998 to a company for using an illustrated book to teach janitors how to clean a building. Clearly that is not such an original idea that it deserves to be patented. Luckily the economic impact of that patent was likely very minimal.”

And finally: “Patent trolls should be dealt with, but if big companies are able to continue to obtain junk patents for things that are not inventions and then act like patent trolls, then they will be able to continue to corner markets and ensure that new emerging technologies can’t compete with them.”

We recently wrote about Apple's "holy war" against Linux/Android — a subject that was mentioned by a lot of media [1, 2, 3, 4]. Nokia‘s patent deal with Apple, which had already cross-licensed with Microsoft for quite a long time (we have written about this triangle for a number of years), helped show how this “holy war” was going on. This new article states that “Nokia makes up about 80% of them [...] the vast majority of licensing fees Microsoft collects — about $15 per device — comes from the Finnish company. Those fees are about to become an internal exchange once the acquisition deal closes between the two companies.”

The ultimate victim will be Android. They are working on it.

To make matters worse, Microsoft and Nokia feed Android-hostile patent trolls like MOSAID, passing patents for no purpose other than harassment (patent-stacking).

This is trolling. The European authorities have already warned/reprimanded Nokia.

What needs to change right now is the debate. We need to reject the idea that there is this thing called “patent trolls” which basically means small companies with patents and that this alone is the issue with patents. There are much bigger issues.

Miguel de Icaza and Xamarin Become More Tightly Integrated With Microsoft

Posted in Microsoft, Mono at 4:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Mole

Summary: Microsoft creates an alliance with the controversial firm of FOSS mole Miguel de Icaza while trying to openwash .NET (creating the illusion that it is “open”)

WE RECENTLY showed how the Microsoft press was openwashing .NET. It’s a PR charade. Watch this shameless new plug from Microsoft Mary at CBS/ZDNet/CNET (cross-posted in several CBS sites for increased exposure). It’s Microsoft evangelism disguised as journalism and there’s more of it at IDG. It should be remembered that .NET is proprietary. Nothing has really changed. Microsoft already controls a considerable chunk of Mono and now it’s trying to openwash .NET itself, presumably with help from Miguel de Icaza and other turncoats whom Microsoft Mary is naming. The goal is to confuse people and lead them to the misguided feeling that .NET is now “open” (to Windows) and is therefore on par with Java.

Last month there were reported of acquisition talks between Microsoft and Xamarin, which already receives funding from Microsoft people. Well, Microsoft has no need to buy them if they can be used as outsiders/proxies, a bit like Yahoo or Novell. So this news report [1] titled “Microsoft, Xamarin Form Open Source Tech Alliance” is not too shocking. It just helps show another step in alignment of those two companies. In practical terms, Xamarin is now serving Microsoft but it is not officially part of Microsoft.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Microsoft, Xamarin Form Open Source Tech Alliance; Miguel de Icaza Comments

    Microsoft and Xamarin have partnered to establish a technology consortium that aims to help developers build computing applications based on Microsoft’s .NET programming framework.

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