12.05.13

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A Western Assault on GNU/Linux Security and Privacy

Posted in Action at 12:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Governments (which are dominated by corporations) continue to make security hard as part of a campaign to spy on everyone under claims that it helps “national security” (control from above)

I

T OUGHTN’T BE so shocking that empires rely on a lot of spying; they require remote penetration (infiltration, informants, eavesdropping, etc.) in order to deter against possible uprise — a challenge to their often-illicit colonisation and/or domestic imposition of power. The negative influence of Western policies (Anglo-Saxon in particular) on security and privacy of Free software products is only to be expected. We need to understand it if we wish to circumvent it.

No company has helped the NSA like Microsoft has. The only ‘competition’ to Microsoft in this respect are the telecom giants. Microsoft launched a new AstroTurfing campaign, trying to convince us that Google is worse even through it’s not. Microsoft is using privacy as an advantage point, falsely believing that the public is not smart enough to realise that Microsoft has been in bed with the NSA for over a decade. As one blogger put it, Microsoft’s “Scroogled” line of anti-Google T-shirts, mugs and other novelties “was guaranteed to be an instant collector’s item when it was first designed because of what it says about Microsoft — that they’re running scared [...] When you have to resort to mudslinging instead of simply competing, it’s clear that you’re playing catch-up.”

But wait, how privacy-respecting is Linux really? Well, unlike GNU, Linux is now developed to a large degree by US corporations that also work with the NSA. Google, which has made somewhat of a joke the notion of privacy on devices running Linux, is only one of them. Red Hat too is working with the NSA and based on this news about a Red Hat partner, the relationship only gets somewhat stronger. As one site put it, a the CIA is now involved, not just Red Hat partners and former staff. Ubuntu too makes mockery out of privacy, especially because of its arrangement with the CIA’s datacentre partner, Amazon (the CIA says is strives to collect all data and never delete it). Based on Snowden’s leaks, the NSA/CIA uses spying on porn surfing in order to discredit activists it does not like, so knowing what they search for on their desktop would help too. What happens when those agents are also getting the historical locations of activists, going many years back (hence knowing where they have been, not only who they spoke to)? Here is some sobering news, confirming what we knew but could not prove. This was originally covered by the Bezos (of Amazon)-owned Washington Post last night:

  • NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show

    The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.

  • This Is How The NSA Is Tracking You This Instant

    That little “entertaining” cell phone in your back pocket, which you are so addicted to thanks to all its apps, videos, messaging function and all other cool bells and whistles, that you can’t possibly live without? It is simply the definitive NSA tracking beacon used to find where you are at any given moment. The following infographic explains how the NSA does just that…

Western powers don’t seem to think that anyone in the world has privacy rights. Linux is originally from Finland (now developed in the US), GNU being all along from the US (MIT). In a way, these two projects have become targets of the nation they are currently made in. Developers seem to be aware of it.

Cisco, the giant whose sales in China are collapsing because of NSA connections, is buying some Free software projects, including those which facilitated private chats (Jabber). Here is an item from the latest news: “Newly absorbed, acquired and assimilated by Cisco for its cyber security prowess, Sourcefire remains a subsidiary company under its own brand name.”

Cisco is monopolising security and insecurity; this is not good. And there are also complaints (even from Linux developers) about Intel and random number generators, arguing that work is being done to subvert security in Linux and by extension in SSL. And just consider what Intel has done with ‘secure’ boot, making it so much harder to set up GNU/Linux and possible to remotely brick PCs. As one UEFI critic out it the other day, it may lead more people to Windows. “My attempt at installing Mint 16 on a UEFI system with Ubuntu has had some – at best – mixed results,” he said.

We could go on to IBM with TPM and other companies whose agenda, which is tied to forums that the NSA is a part of, makes the world a vulnerable place. It’s about control (by the top 1% or less), not control by users. And it ought to worry everyone. Free software is supposed to be about emancipation from control by others (“masters”), so Free software is in jeopardy now.

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