(Dec. 17) -- Is there anyone on the Internet who isn't either spying or being spied upon?
The open-source community is up in arms this week over allegations that, a decade ago, the FBI bribed the developers of operating system OpenBSD to insert a number of backdoors in the system's code. Unless you are a tech wizard you probably have no idea what any of the previous sentence means, but Surge Desk is here to help.
For starters, OpenBSD is an open-source operating system (and if you need to know what one of those is, it's the software such as Windows XP or Mac OS X that runs your computer) that aims to provide users with higher security than a traditional OS. Its client base includes Australia's Human Rights Commission, the Italian Institute of Nuclear Physics and numerous universities, Internet service providers and corporations.
This week's allegations came in the form of an e-mail from former government contractor Gregory Perry to OpenBSD founder Theo de Raadt. The e-mail claimed that 10 years ago the FBI paid developers to add "backdoors" to OpenBSD's source code, essentially giving the bureau the ability to monitor communication within apparently secure private networks.
However, the charges themselves face heavy skepticism. De Raadt has made the allegations public for others to investigate but has publicly stated that he refuses "to become part of such a conspiracy." One of the coders named by Perry has denied everything, and former FBI agent E.J. Hilbert stated on Twitter that while such experiments existed, none had been successful.
As for the FBI's possible motive for monitoring OpenBSD users, the prevailing opinion attributed to the bureau seems to be that people who keep secrets must have something to hide. But for Internet security expert Bruce Schneier, that's where the whole tale falls apart:
I doubt [the story] is true. One, it's a very risky thing to do. And two, there are more than enough exploitable security vulnerabilities in a piece of code that large. Finding and exploiting them is a much better strategy than planting them. But maybe someone at the FBI is that dumb.Follow Surge Desk on Twitter.