Feeds

Stallman backpedals on Mac OS backdoor claims

Free software advocate still no fan of DRM

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Free software activist Richard Stallman has withdrawn an accusation that Apple's Mac OS X contained a backdoor after admitting there was no evidence to substantiate his earlier claims.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

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.