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07.02.15

Microsoft Gradually Embraces, Extends, Extinguishes Linux Foundation as a Foundation of GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Vista 10, Windows at 3:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Linux Foundation now helps Windows, too

Linux Foundation

Summary: By liaising with (or hijacking) existing members of the Linux Foundation, as well as by paying the Linux Foundation, Microsoft turns the Linux Foundation into somewhat of a Windows advocacy group

After the public embarrassment at DockerCon 2015 (causing GNU/Linux software to be tilted in Windows' favour) and more Microsoft payments to the Linux Foundation we can’t help wondering if the Linux Foundation is no longer dedicated to the promotion of GNU/Linux, the operating system. Microsoft is increasingly using its presence and pawns in the Linux Foundation in order to advance Windows at the expense of GNU/Linux. Hyper-V was an early example of that. It’s a Window program and it is proprietary. Why would the Linux Foundation bother supporting that? It was the Microsoft-bribed Novell that did this at the time. Microsoft has moles. In fact, the Linux Foundation now employs some former managers from Microsoft. Can it get much worse than that? One of the worst sites on the Web, a site that mostly rips off other Web sites without any attribution whatsoever, went with the misleading headline “Microsoft joins the Linux Foundation” and some other sites which speak about the Linux Foundation’s R Consortium are emphasising Microsoft [1, 2] as if Microsoft is now the official steward of R. For Microsoft, and by extension for Windows, this is clearly an attempt at buying out a language along with developers. As Linux Veda put it: “The creation of this consortium comes on the heels of Microsoft’s acquisition of Revolution Analytics at the end of January this year. Revolution Analytics are the leading commercial provider of software and services for R. It has been suggested by commentators that Microsoft’s competitors had joined this consortium in an attempt to keep R open.”

“Last month we showed how the Linux Foundation actually promoted Vista 10 because of AllSeen.”Here is the press release from the Linux Foundation and some resultant coverage [1, 2, 3]. Mac Asay, who had tried to work for Microsoft, suggested this “embrace” by Microsoft. In his own words:

Given R’s non-corporate nature, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the community’s response to my recent suggestion that Microsoft owned the R code and should consider contributing it to a foundation.

To paraphrase the response: “There already is a foundation — and the foundation, not some corporation, owns the code!!”

I’ll admit that I was taken aback. After all, my primary contention was that re-implementing R to get around its underlying GPL license would sacrifice R’s great community. I hadn’t bothered to take the time to dig into the provenance of the R code, as it wasn’t material to the bulk of my article. Why wasn’t that community grateful for the compliment, and indifferent to my eensie weensie faux pas?

Because the essence of R is important to its community, and that essence can’t be purchased by any corporation.

A reader who linked to the above article told us that Microsoft is “infecting a GNU project” here. It’s easier to see now why Microsoft bought an R company. It’s all about “developers developers developers developers” (Ballmer’s words) and it’s about them using Windows. Why is the Linux Foundation going along with this? Probably the same reason it goes along with horrible UEFI, Intel being a key financeer of the Foundation, even going back to the OSDL days. It’s all about who is paying. The Linux Foundation, and prior to it OSDL, is supposed to exist so that companies cannot snatch Torvalds with a huge salary but instead they will pool together money to pay Torvalds et al. This pooling mechanism is now being exploited or even compromised by Microsoft, which cleverly knows it can bribe or infiltrate the foundation (Nokia, Novell, and so forth) while the Foundation itself is defenseless as it’s not built to decline funds or repel (even ostracise) members. We wrote about this many years ago because Microsoft destroyed some consortia in this way exactly — by paying off to discredit/dilute/distract/alienate collective efforts, e.g. OSA. Zemlin’s Foundation should learn from other foundations which were cleverly destroyed by Microsoft (Android too is 'work in progress').

Watch this new article promoting proprietary Windows and framing it as “contribution” to “open source”, the context being the eerily-named AllSeen Alliance of the Linux Foundation:

Microsoft has contributed open source code called the AllJoyn Device System Bridge to the AllSeen Alliance in order to help connect legacy and purpose-built devices to the Internet of Things.

Last month we showed how the Linux Foundation actually promoted Vista 10 because of AllSeen. This is the same operating system which, according to the news a couple of days ago [1], “will share your Wi-Fi key with your friends’ friends”. Yes, AllSeen indeed.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. UH OH: Windows 10 will share your Wi-Fi key with your friends’ friends

    Those contacts include their Outlook.com (nee Hotmail) contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, their Facebook friends. There is method in the Microsoft madness – it saves having to shout across the office or house “what’s the Wi-Fi password?” – but ease of use has to be teamed with security. If you wander close to a wireless network, and your friend knows the password, and you both have Wi-Fi Sense, you can now log into that network.

06.26.15

Proprietary Software on Top of Proprietary Software (AV on Windows) Only an Illusion of Security

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Windows at 11:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Our products just aren’t engineered for security.”

Brian Valentine, Microsoft executive

Summary: Remarks on the recent revelations about code and communication interceptions targeting insecurity firms and Microsoft’s claim that ‘transparency’ alone would be enough to assure security

RECENT reports about state surveillance on anti-malware/virus software (which could not detect Stuxnet, for example, making this more like snake oil) have led to the claim that Microsoft Windows cannot be made secure, not even with additional ‘security’ software. “Security by obscurity” does not work when the state can see everything and also sponsors the world’s biggest (and best funded) cybercrime operations. Windows is simply not designed to be secure and security is not the goal as the underlying design serves to prove. As Pogson put it this week:

Given That Other OS is just about everywhere and is helpless without anti-malware software, the NSA and others have studied the anti-malware software to exploit it as a back door to TOOS… Ironic, isn’t it?

Microsoft and security don’t belong in the same sentence. As FOSS Force reminds us, this NSA ally with worst of spyware uses the “transparency centers” [1] sham that we wrote about earlier this month. They are replacing software freedom with “transparency” nonsense. They pretend that “transparency” somehow improves security. It doesn’t.

The only way to perpetually and universally verify (by audit) the security of software, or pressure its maker/distributor to pursue genuine security at all times, is to ensure the software is Free software. Microsoft’s longtime employee (on and off for years at a time) and occasional mole inside FOSS [1, 2, 3, 4] says that Free software has not won and even uses a picture of a pig to prove it or at least make his case (crass, but typical of him). Don’t let these people shape the consensus; after the NSA leaks a lot of semi-technical people can easily understand that Free software is the only way to go. Secrecy, like secret (proprietary) code, is as trustworthy as politicians. It’s time for proprietary software to go. Backbone infrastructure sure is heading towards Free software-only (as a matter of policy), as several consortia already serve to demonstrate. It’s going to be a harsh reality for Microsoft.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. The NSA, Windows & Antivirus

    Poor Microsoft. The beleaguered company just can’t catch a break. We’ve already told you about how Snowden’s revelations have forced the pride of Redmond to spend who knows how many millions opening two “transparency centers” to allow government IT experts to pore through source code to prove there’s no back doors baked into Windows or other Microsoft products. Trouble is, while its engineers have been busy plastering over all traces of old back doors, they’ve left a side door standing wide open, waiting to be exploited.

    [...]

    The spooks have been reverse engineering. They’ve been dismantling Karpersky’s software, searching for weaknesses. They’ve been mining sensitive data by monitoring the email chatter between Kaspersky client and server software. In other words, while IT security folks outside the U.S. have been keeping a wary eye on their Windows servers while trusting their antivirus to be a tool to help them secure the unsecurable…well, their antivirus software has been being a Trojan in the truly Homeric sense of the word.

    [...]

    In the meantime, Windows becomes less safe by the minute for corporations and governments hoping to keep private data private. I’m certain that Red Hat, SUSE, and even Ubuntu are taking advantage.

06.25.15

Microsoft Windows So Insecure That Even Fonts Are Remotely Exploitable

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 5:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Turning the alphabet into a security nightmare

Alphabet

Summary: Windows userbase is once again under serious threat and high risk because something as simple as fonts (rendering of text/pixels on the screen) isn’t done securely in Windows

THERE IS plenty evidence which shows that Microsoft is not interested in security, maybe because there are commitments to the NSA (the motivations are hard to reason about, but Microsoft’s reluctant to patch known holes is easily demonstrable).

Now we are being reminded that even fonts are a security risk in Windows. Yes, Microsoft continues to put users under remote execution threat because of fonts. As the British media put it:

Get patching: Google Project Zero hacker Mateusz Jurczyk has dropped 15 remote code execution vulnerabilities, including a single devastating hack against Adobe Reader and Windows he reckons beats all exploit defences.

The accomplished offensive security researcher (@j00ru) presented findings at the Recon security conference this month under the title One font vulnerability to rule them all: A story of cross-software ownage, shared codebases and advanced exploitation [PDF ] without much fanfare and published a video demonstration of the exploit overnight.

As one commenter (found by Robert Pogson) put it, “Adobe (and I guess MS as well) put font handling in the kernel from NT 4.0 to gain speed at the expense of having privileged-based protection, and against Dave Cutler’s original micro kernel plans. What could possibly go wrong?”

Proprietary software is so bad that even fonts are a huge risk. This isn’t the first such incident. It serves also as a reminder for GNU/Linux users because some users continues to install proprietary software from Adobe, despite Free/libre alternatives being equally potent.

To quote the part which shows why Windows makes things even worse: “The nastiest vulnerabilities for 32-bit (CVE-2015-3052) and 64-bit (CVE-2015-0093) systems exist in the Adobe Type Manager Font Driver (ATMFD.dll) module which has supported Type 1 and Type 2 fonts in the Windows kernel since Windows NT 4.0.”

“Our products just aren’t engineered for security.”

Brian Valentine, Microsoft executive

06.24.15

Microsoft is Again Demonstrating That It is Not Interested in Making Windows Secure

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 9:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Our products just aren’t engineered for security.”

Brian Valentine, Microsoft executive

Michael S. Rogers
“I don’t want a back door. I want a front door.”Director of the NSA (2015)

Summary: Microsoft decides to leave Windows with flaws in it, claiming that fixing the flaws would not be worth Microsoft’s resources

FOR A LONG period of time (3 months or more) Microsoft refused to fix a serious flaw in Windows. It only did something about it when it was too late because the public had found out. Microsoft blamed the messenger.

This is not the exception, it’s pretty much the norm. Some Windows flaws exist for as long as 15 years, but they have no "branding" like a name or a logo.

“People with access to the world’s biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons still use Windows XP.”“Dustin Childs says the company couldn’t get Microsoft to patch an IE exploit,” says this new report, pointing to HP’s Web site. “Since Microsoft feels these issues do not impact a default configuration of IE,” Childs wrote, “it is in their judgment not worth their resources and the potential regression risk” (a lot more damning information can be found in the HP Security Research Blog).

Given Microsoft’s cooperation with the NSA on back door access, this hardly surprises us. Even more sad than this is a new report about the US Navy wasting millions in taxpayers’ money to run an operating system initially released in 2001. People with access to the world’s biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons still use Windows XP. As IDG put it:

The U.S. Navy is paying Microsoft millions of dollars to keep up to 100,000 computers afloat because it has yet to transition away from Windows XP.

After the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) disaster (Windows involved), we oughtn’t be too shocked about some nuclear disaster happening because of dependence of ancient Windows.

Not Only is Vista 10 Not Free, It is Getting More Expensive, According to the Taiwanese Press

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Vista 10, Windows at 9:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft is hiding the price tag

Price tag

Summary: More proof that Microsoft charges quite a lot for Vista 10 (at OEM level), despite the perpetual deception about costs

“NOT FREE” is the only way to describe Vista 10, despite repeated lies from Microsoft and its boosters [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Vista 10 not just nonfree (proprietary) but also not free (non-gratis) and exceedingly expensive. There is no other way to put it.

We gradually see (or start seeing) Vista 10 puff pieces that promise us everything and make this yet-unreleased piece of software sound like the best thing to ever reach planet Earth. We caution our readers and ask them to remember that Microsoft bribes bloggers, journalists, etc. who review the latest Windows before anyone else gains access to it. In addition, we saw Microsoft shamefully blacklist ‘unwanted’ voices, then ask the media to claim that reviews (bribed for at approximately $1000 a pop) are largely positive. It’s intended to shape consensus before the release. It’s trend-setting by gross manipulation.

Regarding the cost of Vista 10 (hidden in OEM contracts, under NDA), now we have a clue. According to the media in Taiwan, “Microsoft has been talking to notebook brand vendors about the licensing of Windows 10 recently and is planning to charge extra fees for notebook models with high-end hardware such as Core i7 processors or Full HD display.”

So Microsoft is quietly raising the price of Windows. There’s nothing “free” about it. “Expect GNU/Linux to have a really great year,” writes Robert Pogson. Microsoft hopes to bamboozle people into the false belief that Windows and GNU/Linux are the same price. It’s all about perception, even if by repeatedly lying.

“There’s no company called Linux, there’s barely a Linux road map. Yet Linux sort of springs organically from the earth. And it had, you know, the characteristics of communism that people love so very, very much about it. That is, it’s free.”

Steve Ballmer

06.22.15

Microsoft’s Continued and Seemingly Never-Ending Lies About Vista 10 Being ‘Free’ (Lock-in)

Posted in Deception, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Vista 10, Windows at 5:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“The purpose of announcing early like this is to freeze the market at the OEM and ISV level. In this respect it is JUST like the original Windows announcement…

Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft

Summary: In a shameless effort to discourage migrations to the zero-cost BSD and GNU/Linux, Microsoft continues to flood the media with false claims about the cost of Windows and the price of Vista 10 (not even released yet) in particular

READERS have let us know that Microsoft propagandist Ed Bott is spreading the ‘free’ Vista 10 myth (it’s out there again and spreading quickly in corporate media; it’s a myth that is not dead, despite a lot of debunking [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]). It reaches a large audience in the CBS-owned ZDNet, despite being a lie and a nasty form of PR. No matter how it turns out (Microsoft Peter already admits that Microsoft just lies about ‘free’ Vista 10 this time too), a lot of the public may be left with the false impression about the cost of Vista 10. This propaganda or semi-truths (i.e. lies) would target ‘useful idiots’ or people who hardly follow the news. Many still think that Vista 10 will be made available free of charge. There is a war on the minds.

“People choose GNU/Linux not just for cost savings; some people are capable of thinking long term and factor in external transactional aspects.”Freedom, as ever before, is not free, so even if Vista 10 is somehow obtained (legally or illegally) at no cost it is not worth it; the price is people’s control over their own lives.

For those who truly pursue Free software on computers (as well underlying hardware, which assures freedom in other ways) there is now “Purism”. $1,649 will buy you a secure laptop with only Free software. As ZDNet (surprisingly enough) put it the other day:

The company hopes to expand the notebook lineup running its open-source PureOS with a smaller, $1,649 portable that will ship in September if it receives sufficient backing.

$1,649 may sound like a lot of money, but for a machine that can serve a person for many years (almost a decade) and ensure autonomy, privacy etc. in an age of increasingly-oppressive technology it might actually be worth it. People choose GNU/Linux not just for cost savings; some people are capable of thinking long term and factor in external transactional aspects. Windows lock-in is far too expensive even at $0 or negative pricing. Price can change over time and the abuses that come with proprietary software (e.g. espionage) are unforeseeable.

“Some weeks it looks like Redmond feels entitled to capture not just part of what we save, but all of it. That just isn’t going to fly with corporate America forever. When your margins are more sensitive to Bill Gates’ pricing whims than they are the price of oil, that’s an untenable position for a large company to be in.”

John Chapman Sr., BP Amoco Technology Executive

“They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

Bill Gates

06.14.15

Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Microsoft Windows

Posted in Microsoft, Windows at 6:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Server

Summary: A look at lesser-explored aspects of the so-called OPN hack [sic], especially the systems involved

IN AN EFFORT to understand what repeatedly happened in the undoubtedly significant Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach/es [2-8], leaving aside the lack of concrete evidence of Chinese role [1], we tried to understand which platform was to blame. In the case of Sony it was reportedly a Microsoft Windows machine acting as the culprit or attack vector, just like Stuxnet in Iran with similar attempts against North Korea (there are still more articles about it).

“Hundreds of millions of credit card numbers got snatched from Windows.”NSA leaks were due to Microsoft SharePoint (Snowden gained access to the so-called ‘crown jewels’). As we last noted in an article about words from Kaspersky (still in headlines for it [9-12]), Windows is inherently not secure. Commercial targets of data breached that we wrote about before serve to show this. We gave readers a lot of examples over the years. Hundreds of millions of credit card numbers got snatched from Windows. the cost was enormous, but the role of Windows wasn’t ever emphasised in the corporate press.

Rebecca Abrahams published an article co-authored by Dr. Stephen Bryen, Founder & CTO of FortressFone Technologies. Unlike many other articles which point a finger at China (with little to actually back this accusation with), Abrahams does call out Windows and sheds light on what OPM uses:

Second, the government is very slow to improve security on its computers and networks. Many of the computers the government is using are antique. For example OPM still has 12-year old Windows XT as an operating system for its computers. Microsoft no longer supports XT and any vulnerability that develops is the problem of the user, not of the supplier. But even if the old stuff was upgraded it won’t help much because the systems are really clumsy amalgams of disparate parts which as a “system,” have never been properly vetted for security.

So there we go. Windows. We’re hardly surprised to say the least. The author probably means NT or XP (14 years old, not 12, unlike Server 2003), but does it matter much? Any version of Windows, no matter how old, is not secure. It’s not even designed to be secure.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. US wronging of China for cyber breaches harm mutual trust

    Out of ulterior motives, some US media and politicians have developed a habit of scapegoating China for any alleged cyber attack on the United States. Such groundless accusations would surely harm mutual trust between the two big powers of today’s world.

  2. The Massive Hack on US Personnel Agency is Worse Than Everyone Thought

    Last week, the human resources arm of the US government, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) admitted that it had been victim of a massive data breach, where hackers stole personal data belonging to as many as 4 million government workers.

  3. Feds Who Didn’t Even Discover The OPM Hack Themselves, Still Say We Should Give Them Cybersecurity Powers

    We already described how the recent hack into the US federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) appears to be much more serious than was initially reported. The hack, likely by Chinese state hackers, appear to have obtained basically detailed personal info on all current and many former federal government employees.

  4. China-linked hackers get data on CIA, NSA personnel with security-clearance: report

    China-linked hackers appear to have gained access to sensitive background information submitted by US intelligence and military personnel for security clearances that could potentially expose them to blackmail, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

    In a report citing several US officials, the news agency said that data on nearly all of the millions of US security-clearance holders, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and military special operations personnel, were potentially exposed in the attack on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

  5. Second OPM Hack Revealed: Even Worse Than The First

    And yet… this is the same federal government telling us that it wants more access to everyone else’s data to “protect” us from “cybersecurity threats” — and that encryption is bad? Yikes.

  6. Dossiers on US spies, military snatched in ‘SECOND govt data leak’

    A second data breach at the US Office of Personnel Management has compromised even more sensitive information about government employees than the first breach that was revealed earlier this week, sources claim. It’s possible at least 14 million Americans have chapter and verse on their lives leaked, we’re told.

    The Associated Press reports that hackers with close ties to China are believed to have obtained extensive background information on intelligence-linked government staffers – from CIA agents and NSA spies to military special ops – who have applied for security clearances.

    Among the records believed to have leaked from a compromised database are copies of Standard Form 86 [PDF], a questionnaire that is given to anyone who applies for a national security position, and is typically verified via interviews and background checks.

  7. Officials: Second hack exposed military and intel data
  8. Senate Quickly Says ‘No Way’ To Mitch McConnell’s Cynical Ploy To Add Bogus Cybersecurity Bill To NDAA

    Earlier this week, we noted that Senator Mitch McConnell, hot off of his huge flop in trying to preserve the NSA’s surveillance powers, had promised to insert the dangerous “cybersecurity” bill CISA directly into the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act). As we discussed, while many have long suspected that CISA (and CISPA before it) were surveillance bills draped in “cybersecurity” clothing, the recent Snowden revelations that the NSA is using Section 702 “upstream” collection for “cybersecurity” issues revealed how CISA would massively expand the NSA’s ability to warrantlessly wiretap Americans’ communications.

  9. “Don’t Hack Me! That’s a Bad Idea,” Says Eugene Kaspersky to APT Groups
  10. Russian Software Security Lab Hacked, Indirectly Links Attack To NSA
  11. Israel, NSA May Have Hacked Antivirus Firm Kaspersky Lab

    Moscow-based antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab, famous for uncovering state-sponsored cyberattacks, today dropped its biggest bombshell yet: Its own computer networks were hit by state-sponsored hackers, probably working for Israeli intelligence or the U.S. National Security Agency. The same malware also attacked hotels that hosted ongoing top-level negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

  12. Protocols of the Hackers of Zion?

    When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Google chairman Eric Schmidt on Tuesday afternoon, he boasted about Israel’s “robust hi-tech and cyber industries.” According to The Jerusalem Post, “Netanyahu also noted that ‘Israel was making great efforts to diversify the markets with which it is trading in the technological field.’”

    Just how diversified and developed Israeli hi-tech innovation has become was revealed the very next morning, when the Russian cyber-security firm Kaspersky Labs, which claims more than 400 million users internationally, announced that sophisticated spyware with the hallmarks of Israeli origin (although no country was explicitly identified) had targeted three European hotels that had been venues for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

    Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, one of the first news sources to break the story, reported that Kaspersky itself had been hacked by malware whose code was remarkably similar to that of a virus attributed to Israel. Code-named “Duqu” because it used the letters DQ in the names of the files it created, the malware had first been detected in 2011. On Thursday, Symantec, another cyber-security firm, announced it too had discovered Duqu 2 on its global network, striking undisclosed telecommunication sites in Europe, North Africa, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia. It said that Duqu 2 is much more difficult to detect that its predecessor because it lives exclusively in the memory of the computers it infects, rather than writing files to a drive or disk.

06.12.15

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.

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