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Snowden: What Happened In 2013 Couldn't Have Happened Without Free Software (networkworld.com) 120

An anonymous reader writes from a NetworkWorld article: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke at Free Software Foundation's LibrePlanet 2016 on free software, privacy, and security. He credited free software for his ability to help disclose the U.S. government's far-reaching surveillance projects. "What happened in 2013 couldn't have happened without free software," he said, particularly citing projects like Tor, Tails (a highly secure Linux distribution) and Debian. "I didn't use Microsoft machines when I was in my operational phase, because I couldn't trust them," Snowden stated. "Not because I knew that there was a particular back door or anything like that, but because I couldn't be sure."
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Snowden: What Happened In 2013 Couldn't Have Happened Without Free Software

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  • Yeah, that's why I stopped programming in MS-BASIC. It just couldn't be trusted any more.

    Slashdotter's response: ". . . What's MS-BASIC? Is that like COBOL and FORTRAN's love-child?"

    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      MSX Basic was quite secure due MSX not supporting any sort of networking.
      Of course, if your Datassette was the loud annoying kind, NSA probably can record your data with a hidden mic.

  • by r0kk3rz ( 825106 ) on Sunday March 20, 2016 @11:36AM (#51737433)
    Thanks Snowden for pointing this out, now we will see a movement against open source software because it aids terrorists, just like unlockable iphones or other means of secure communications.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Thanks Snowden for pointing this out, now we will see a movement against open source software because it aids terrorists, just like unlockable iphones or other means of secure communications.

      We are already there. [slashdot.org] Now we'll see routers begin to lock out open source software, but is it outside the realm of possibility to think that this could slowly extend to all wifi devices, including those in, say, laptops?

      After all, Windows 10 can't have other operating systems allowing people to use computers without sending everything about you to Microsoft and any government and/or corporate entities that they are partnering with.

  • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Sunday March 20, 2016 @11:52AM (#51737527) Homepage

    You can see Edward Snowden's talk for yourself [libreplanet.org].

    There are no configuration changes you can make, programs you can install, or other changes you can make to make proprietary (user-subjugating, nonfree) software trustworthy. It won't matter what the "privacy" settings say you can do; the proprietor has the upper hand and can easily write software to rat you out. Software freedom is a prerequisite for computer privacy and security and all of the other things that go into treating computer users ethically. All computer users deserve software freedom.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Astute and trenchant. As with all interactions involving humans, you can only trust that which you can verify.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What does this have to do with anything? His "operational" phase consisted of him asking clueless users for their passwords. Open Source or backdoors had nothing to do with what he did, or how he did it.

    Yeah, I get that Snowden gets a lot of love around here, but on a technical or knowledge basis, he's one of the least interesting people out there. Ever most script kiddies are more interesting than he is.

  • Note for whiplash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday March 20, 2016 @12:41PM (#51737783) Homepage Journal

    Note the following:

    [...] citing projects like Tor, Tails (a highly secure Linux distribution) and Debian.

    "Tor" and "Debian" are well known and probably don't need explanation, while "Tails" is more obscure and has a quick explanatory note.

    This is how you do it, this is a good method. (It's in the original article.)

    Looking through the past 3 pages of Slashdot I couldn't find any examples of obscurity, but I found lots of examples of references that had a hint of help for the reader - a word of context or a placing phrase or something that illuminates the subject for the reader.

    It looks like things are getting better. Keep up the good work.

    • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

      I think there's a pretty sharp cap for where slashdot can go, as far as participants. Websites now compete on controversy, and slashdot, as an early entrant into this, only flirts with it- it's too information heavy to swing in that arena. You can't dogpile someone with downvotes or jerk yourself off by upvoting platitudes, instead you only have a few mod points some of the time, and have expectations for using them to get actual conversations. You can't have a whole thread with everyone saying the same

  • Make A Bet (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Sunday March 20, 2016 @04:20PM (#51739105)
    I would be shocked if the government did not have all kinds of stuff planted in Microsoft products. And that can lead to very dangerous actions. Suppose, as an example that the government becomes informed of a very dangerous criminal due to bugs planted in an OS or browser. But it is obvious that making an arrest would reveal the existence of that bug. People could be made to vanish and never be heard from again. The problem is it could be someone else that used your computer. With no open trials taht could be a very real problem.
  • Snowden is spouting bullshit, FOSS is great, but to suggest it is all you need is complete and utter rubbish. Unless you are running completely open hardware right down to the CPU microcode level you cannot audit 100% of the system, as Snowden's Russian masters know, otherwise they would not have gone to the trouble of fabricating their own CPUs (to be sure that the only back-doors in them were the ones thy put there themselves.).
  • Free and open source software can be _used_ for any purpose, good or evil.

    Sure we can acknowledge the good that is done, but lets not forget the evil its used for.

    If there was an ethical licence, it would not be considered free or open, unfortunately.

  • Snowden used free software to commit what is basically a crime and brags about it...
    That his crime is defensible using whistleblower protection, that it is "for greater good" doesn't make it different from a technical standpoint.

    And while anyone that understand the idea behind free software and encryption know that it can help good citizens and criminals alike but it may not be the same for the general public. And many of them view Snowden as a traitor.

  • Is this a good thing for OSS, that Snowden mentions it made what he did possible? Snowden may get thumbs up by most on this site, i believe the average joe takes the side of the government and think he's a 'terrorist'. What people know about OSS (if at all) is what MS and other companies have bombarded them with the last +10 years or so (communist, cancer, etc). So putting these two together, how will this affect the reputations of OSS more? might give the government more free play to limit OSS development.

It is contrary to reasoning to say that there is a vacuum or space in which there is absolutely nothing. -- Descartes