Feeds

Stallman backpedals on Mac OS backdoor claims

Free software advocate still no fan of DRM

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Free software activist Richard Stallman has withdrawn an accusation that Apple's Mac OS X contained a backdoor after admitting there was no evidence to substantiate his earlier claims.

Stallman has repeatedly levelled charges that Apple could forcibly impose software changes in Mac OS X. He now admits his opinion was influenced by unsubstantiated gripes against Apple's operating system and that there is "no evidence that Apple has installed software changes without the user's permission."

"We have no way to verify that there is no backdoor in Mac OS X that could install changes without permission, but that is no basis to claim there is one," Stallman writes in a post on his FSF blog on Monday. "I apologize for repeating a criticism of Mac OS which I cannot substantiate and must presume is false."

Even after ditching the backdoor claim, Stallman predictably remains a staunch critic of Apple's DRM (copyright technology) push.

"While Apple has not, it seems, imposed changes by force, it has a record of making users install harmful changes on pain of losing functionality, and misleading users about what these changes do."

For example, back in 2005, Apple insisted users needed to upgrade to iTunes 4.7 to use its music store. According to Stallman, Apple misled its users in describing this as a security upgrade. In reality, the change was designed to "change the iTunes system of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to make PyMusique stop working." PyMusique was a free software application that allowed GNU/Linux users to access the iTunes store.

This isn't an isolated example, according to Stallman, who accused Apple of sneaking a DRM into Quicktime last year that "stopped users from playing video files they themselves had made."

Stallman concludes that while he no longer believes Mac OS X has a backdoor, he doesn't regard it as all above board either. He is certainly not a candidate for an iBook, much less an iPhone. Stallman's privacy concerns are such that he avoids using mobiles in general.

"If Mac OS X does not have a backdoor to forcibly install changes, that does not make it ethical," Stallman concludes. "It has other malicious features, such as Digital Restrictions Management.

"What makes those malfeatures possible is that users can't remove them. Mac OS is proprietary software, so the users don't have control over it - rather, the developer has sole control over the program, and employs it as an instrument of control over the users. So I don't withdraw my condemnation of Mac OS. But I do withdraw the claim that it has a known backdoor." ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.