I.T. Security and Linux Administration

Aug 31 2012   5:50PM GMT

Skype and Free Software Purists

Eric Hansen Eric Hansen Profile: Eric Hansen

LinuxBSDos.com recently posted an article talking about Skype and it’s usage for law enforcement.  While the article as a whole is interesting to read and adds a non-biased approach to what can be easily considered a sensitive topic (at least in the Linux community), there’s some points that should be pointed out:

Skype was never really developed for Linux.  Yes, it has had a Linux binary, even before Microsoft bought them out.  But it was so far behind the Windows client it wasn’t even worth really using if you wanted an actual VoIP client.  The only saving grace for Skype on Linux is that it was closed-source, so you couldn’t easily implement the protocol in something like Ekiga.

The term ‘free software’ is a bit of misconception in the article (and possibly the community).  To say Microsoft is not a free software company is a lie to most people, as Microsoft has released software that is, in fact, free (Microsoft Essentials is probably one of the best anti-virus programs for Windows machines).  While I know that is not the intent in making such a point, that is the first though that comes to mind.

It seems more than anything that “bashing” or nonconstructive criticizing Microsoft (and the like) is either still the cool thing to do, or people who will not let the pat go.  Back in the day, yeah, Microsoft was a thorn in the side of the open source and free software communities.  However, over the years (especially since Bill Gates stepped down) they have really changed their focus.  But why is there still all of this hate and dislike towards the company?  What does it even amount to?  Making a claim that Microsoft is the root of all evil is far from the truth, and the title should really be given to a company such as Apple (the lawsuit with Samsung really solidified that to me).

Skype and Microsoft are not the only ones to provide overly-sensitive information to law enforcement like this.  There’s not many details on the LinuxBSDos website about what it entails, but it’s really no different than countless phone carriers in the States, where they store the information for years.  While a search warrant is required to obtain such information, the carriers still comply with law enforcement on such matters.

2  Comments on this Post

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  • TomLiotta
    (Microsoft Essentials is probably one of the best anti-virus programs for Windows machines)   I don't use it, so I can't comment on its quality. But I have an opinion on the worth of MS releasing it. It's a terrible move.   The market needs to be independent. If this Microsoft (Security) Essentials is around the top of its class, it can only negatively affect 3rd-party researchers who strive to understand vulnerabilities and to create solutions. If MS is going to compete, what will the future hold for 3rd-party independent research?   MS gives (Security) Essentials away for free. As it's used on more systems, fewer will see competing products. The free versions from various vendors are the biggest methods of getting their products into the minds of consumers. They also perform a service by testing signatures, algorithms, usability and other aspects.   IMO, in general, MS should avoid this type of competition. It doesn't benefit consumers in the long run, and it hurts an extremely valuable group of 3rd-party vendors.   Tom
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  • Eric Hansen
    The thing though is that it's been 3rd party for years, and it hasn't really done any good.  Look at Norton and Symantec.  They're the two biggest names in the AV and security suite business, and yet their products are horrible.  Too many false positives and late updates to their database.
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