06.03.15

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Microsoft Wants to Remove (or Deprecate) PuTTY From Windows and Replace It With Proprietary Microsoft Software

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Security at 10:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What would Simon Tatham say?

Simon Tatham

Summary: The most prominent NSA partner wants to ‘contribute’ to OpenSSH, one of the thorns in the side of spies all around the world

MICROSOFT has just made this bizarre “Looking Forward” announcement, with no timetable. It’s about OpenSSH.

“I haven’t read the page or even tried to load the link,” told us a reader, “but the URL if legit says a lot of bad if they are now targeting and may corrupt that community. Connecting to or from a Windows machine defeats the purpose of the program.”

PowerShell was recently mentioned in the context of Microsoft's attempt to openwash it, trying to get UNIX/Linux people addicted to it. PowerShell is proprietary software and it is using Microsoft APIs, conventions, etc. No security-conscientious person (especially computer professional) should ever use it.

A very misleading headline from IDG says that making proprietary software devour OpenSSH is “love”. IDG extended this nonsense to several sites which it owns and many people read it there first because of this spamming/repetition/googlebombing [1, 2]. There was later (due to lesser visibility, no spamming) some additional ZDNet‘s coverage from Linux-oriented journalists and some Linux-oriented sites like Softpedia‘s Linux section and Phoronix, which wrote: “In the Windows world it has been traditional to use a program such as PuTTY to remotely manage Unix boxes from Windows clients, but no more.”

“Like porting a hardened steel padlock to a paper bag.”
      –iophk
Well, so it’s more like an unnecessary move then, at the very least because of PuTTY (there are other reasons which we can name another day). What at all is Microsoft contributing here? PuTTY has worked for well over a decade (I first used it around 2001). It was adequately adapted/updated to all versions of Windows as there was market need/demand.

There was pro-Microsoft slant in Microsoft-supportive sites [1, 2] and increasingly (over time) Microsoft-leaning sites such as Slashdot (see coverage) or The Register (see coverage). These used to be pro-FOSS, but that was before Microsoft influence, boosters, money etc. got funneled in.

Our reader iophk, quoting Microsoft Peter as saying that “Microsoft is going to work with {sic} and contribute to {sic} OpenSSH, the de facto standard SSH implementation in the Unix world, to bring its SSH client and server to Windows,” criticises this worrisome move. “Like porting a hardened steel padlock to a paper bag,” to use his analogy. So a platform with back doors can compromise a network which the NSA, based on Snowden’s leak, has not been so successful penetrating (some improvements have been made since there, like deprecation of old ciphers, not deliberately-compromised ciphers like those which Microsoft uses). We have legitimate reasons to be concerned when the first PRISM company and NSA ally (Microsoft) says it wants to ‘contribute’. Even when a company like Red Hat wants to alter SSH we dread it a bit because of Red Hat’s own relationship with its big client, the Department of Defence, as we have explained before [1, 2, 3, 4]. OpenSSH is a BSD project and the licence too is different, not just the philosophy (OpenBSD is exceptionally strict).

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