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Richard Stallman: Windows OS is malware

May 25, 20154 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

Both Microsoft and Apple operating systems are malware with backdoors to snoop on and shackle users, according to Richard Stallman, who also took a swing at Amazon Kindle, streaming service apps, and the Internet of Things.

Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, said Windows and OS X are malware, claimed Amazon’s Kindle has an Orwellian back door, and said that only an idiot would trust the Internet of Things.

“Malware is the name for a program designed to mistreat its users,” Stallman wrote in The Guardian.

What kinds of programs constitute malware? Operating systems, first of all. Windows snoops on users, shackles users and, on mobiles, censors apps; it also has a universal back door that allows Microsoft to remotely impose software changes. Microsoft sabotages Windows users by showing security holes to the NSA before fixing them.

Apple systems are malware too: MacOS [OS X] snoops and shackles; iOS snoops, shackles, censors apps and has a back door. Even Android contains malware in a non-free component: a back door for remote forcible installation or de-installation of any app.

Only a few months ago when delivering his keynote at the LibrePlanet conference in March, Stallman announced that he had “joined” the Internet. On his personal website, Stallman previously explained how he does his computing.

I am careful in how I use the Internet.

I generally do not connect to web sites from my own machine, aside from a few sites I have some special relationship with. I usually fetch web pages from other sites by sending mail to a program (see git:// that fetches them, much like wget, and then mails them back to me. Then I look at them using a web browser, unless it is easy to see the text in the HTML page directly. I usually try lynx first, then a graphical browser if the page needs it (using konqueror, which won’t fetch from other sites in such a situation).

I occasionally also browse using IceCat via Tor. I think that is enough to prevent my browsing from being connected with me, since I don’t identify myself to the sites I visit.

I never pay for anything on the Web. Anything on the net that requires payment, I don’t do.

Stallman, who believes iPhones and Androids are Big Brother tracking devices, previously said smartphones are “Stalin’s dream” and Facebook is a “monstrous surveillance engine.” This time he kicked Amazon’s Kindle, writing, “Amazon’s Kindle e-reader reports what page of what book is being read, plus all notes and underlining the user enters; it shackles the user against sharing or even freely giving away or lending the book, and has an Orwellian back door for erasing books.”

You can also be “shackled” by apps for streaming services, which don’t allow users to save a copy of the data received and force users to “identify themselves so their viewing and listening habits can be tracked.”

Modern cars can’t be trusted either, due to their proprietary software that prevents “car owners from fixing their cars.” Stallman added, “If the car itself does not report everywhere you drive, an insurance company may charge you extra to go without a separate tracker. Meanwhile, some GPS navigators save up where you have gone in order to report back when connected to update the maps.”

Then there’s the Internet of Things. Both smart TVs and the Internet-connected Hello Barbie doll “transmit conversations remotely.” Stallman wrote:

Should you trust an internet of proprietary software things? Don’t be an ass.

But don’t despair, Stall says, as resistance is not futile.

We can resist:

Individually, by rejecting proprietary software and web services that snoop or track.

Collectively, by organizing to develop free/libre replacement systems and web services that don’t track who uses them.

Democratically, by legislation to criminalize various sorts of malware practices. This presupposes democracy, and democracy requires defeating treaties such as the TPP and TTIP that give companies the power to suppress democracy.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.