WannaCry: FREE SOFTWARE is the way forward.

The world is still in shock from the recent WannaCry attack. Though experts claim the situation is under control, they don’t rule out the possibilities of more such attacks in coming days. As per the reports, WannaCry ransomware  affected approximately 230,000 computers in 150 countries bringing regular operation to a halt in many places. The most affected are American shipping companies and healthcare systems in the UK. The impact of this attack is comparatively low in India.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a malware or a malicious program that encrypts the files in computers or smartphones and makes it unusable, while the attackers demand money for decrypting the files. In the recent attack, which is considered to be one of thelargest ransomware attacks, crackers were demanding 300$ to 500$ equivalent in bitcoin currency for decrypting the files.
What is wannaCry ransomware?
WannaCry is the name of ransomware that targets the Microsoft Windows operating system. This malware was used to launch the WannaCry ransomware attack on Friday, 12 May 2017. Sometimes it uses different names like WannaCrypt, WannaCry, WanaCrypt0r, WCrypt, WCRY etc. Crackers used the loophole present in Microsoft SMB Protocol to spread this program to other computers. All machines running the version of Windows operating system before Windows 10 without MS17 -010 security patch are prone to this ransomware attack. 
Immediate measures to block such attacks in future?
1) Update the security patch MS17-010 released by Microsoft at the earliest.
2) Block port numbers 39, 445, 3389 in your firewall
3) Avoid clicking unknown links while using the Internet
4) Avoid opening email attachments from unknown contacts
5) Disable SMB in windows operating system
6) Set pop-up blocker in your browser
7) Keep your data backup regularly and store in the cloud environment.
The long term solution?
Fixing a problem permanently lies on how better we understand the root cause of the problem. It is not possible to build a completely foolproof program or an operating system that is not prone to any sort of such attacks. But a program and its source code under public scrutiny can identify the loopholes in the system and patch immediately before attackers exploit that vulnerability. This is the main reason all major malware attacks are mainly affecting proprietary software like Microsoft Windows operating systems. When a user does not have any control over the program that he/she is running, the program controls the user. That also makes it is easy for someone else to take complete control over that computer or smartphone. In the case of  Free Software, users control the program, and the source code is open for everyone to access;  this in turns makes  Free Software  more secure when compared to any other proprietary software.
Unlike in the past, nowadays Free Software operating systems (GNU/Linux ) are user-friendly and easy to use. Ubuntu, Mint, Debian Fedora are some widely used PC operating systems with an active community support. By taking a decision to migrate from proprietary operating system to a GNU/Linux operating systems, you are not only staying safe but also become part of culture and community who believe in sharing and collaborating.
The NSA’s role here?
The malware is spread on the network by leveraging the vulnerability in   “Server Message Block” (SMB), a network protocol in the Windows Operating System. Last month it was revealed that the software  “EternalBlue” is developed by the American National Security Agency (NSA) and has been used to leak personal information using this security vulnerability. WannaCry is believed to be using the same software. The unholy alliance between the American IT giants and the National Security Agency is no more a secret.  Edward Snowden, a national security contractor, was one of the first persons to disclose this illicit relationship between NSA and American IT giants which revealed the massive surveillance program targeting the citizens with the direct help of American IT giants.Hence, any long-term solutions need to be discussed and developed outside the ambit of the unholy alliance between NSA and IT giants the Free Software way.
PS : The same articles has been published in oneindia.com 

Caste based reservation should continue

In fact, I had anti-reservation thoughts quite some times back , that is to implement reservation based on economic measures instead of caste based. I also had friends who used to receive benefits from the government just because they belong to a lower caste, and as it mentioned in the petition they got preference in admissions while some of their parents were from ‘economically’ well off background, though. The question is are they still facing social discrimination of any sort because of their caste identity amidst of financial position ?

The mistake I have done is I tried to generalize the whole Indian situation just based on my experience and few incidents that happened in my life ? I don’t think that was the right approach as India is extremely complex country. I tried to understand the actual caste issue without any prejudice , read Ambedkar and many related articles online. Right now I have a different take on this reservation topic. I believe that reservation should exist as long as people are not discriminated based on caste.

I usually hear some of below arguments from anti-reservation campaigners or someone who is ‘pissed off’ due to the reservation.
Their first argument: the reservation is based on caste, so, the caste based reservation should be replaced by the economic criteria.

The second argument: the reservations are given only to SC’s and ST’s.

The third argument: the reservation is limited for only ten years, but reservations have been continuing for last 65 years hence it should be removed.

The fourth argument: the General communities or Upper Castes have been losing the opportunities because of reservation so it should be scraped.

The fifth argument: the reservations have hindered the growth and development of this country so it should be stopped.

The sixth argument: the reservations has created and strengthened the caste system

The fact is that there are misconceptions that have become dominant idea of the society and some demanded such a situation for political gain. This article counter some of the misconception with relevant data.

COOPaisa initiative

I read about  COOPaisa initiative from the Internet. First up all let me congratulate the entire team materializing an idea like COOPaisa and rolled out at the right time when people are literally struggling due to recent demonetization move.

I understand that at cashless economy would be the future. At the same time, it also raises concerns about the feasibility of going digital , security , the privacy of individual etc. Following new developments that are happening in the country after demonetization is announced,  corporates are trying to hand hold the implementation of the cashless economy  with an intent of monopolizing the entire cashless transactions. Once established without any doubt corporates  start increasing rates causing the burden to common people, by then people would not have the alternative option to even think about and hence trapped and exploited. This is extremely dangerous and worrisome. Unfortunately, government is supporting such activities which should not have been the case.

An initiative like COOPaisa is an alternative model which is more decentralized and consider those who are not digitally “well off” too. COOPaisa is implemented by a cooperative bank in Malappuram district of Kerala also known as people’s bank. Cooperative banks are organically connected to people of that locality where the bank operates unlikely to that of private banks. I am waiting to see such an initiative to be adopted by whole such cooperative units of Kerala and the country and save people from not trapped by corporate giants.

(It would have been greater if COOPaisa like project released under any free software license so that better and faster maintenance and adoption.)

What is my ideology ?

At present when I want to understand more and it is quite new to me I try to understand myself more about that piece of information mainly from Internet. Suppose I get some basic understanding, I discuss with my friends and colleagues whom I trust. The relation is evolved over a period of time. It is always important to have such friend circle. I am just a kid in our circle 😀 During this phase, I might get corrected or get more points to back my understanding which is according to my intelligence. I am not getting brainwashed anytime.

On top of it, I have an ideology. I am a budding Marxist. This has happened to me after a lot of reading and interaction. Marx himself made a stand on critical thinking. It goes like this“ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”

I understand that Marxism helps me understand a problem by co-relating the economical and social aspect of it in a historical context , which is more convincing to me than anything else. Marxism explains in detail what is capitalism and how does it operate. In fact, it is understood that Marx is the person who studied capitalism to the deep than anyone else. That’s why he could come up with a such a groundbreaking critics on capitalism and stressed upon overthrowing it. “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it” said by Marx.

Based on the Marxist theoretical understanding I can say that in India we have a corporate(capitalist) Hindutva government.( When it was Congress government they were capitalist government). The moment such a move like demonetization announced , I did not need to think twice about the pro people factor in it. That set base for my thought and further reading or investigation is to gather more knowledge to back my understanding.

How many actually talked about the source of black money that is black activities ? The fact is that a capitalist gov can not address the issue of black activities and black money.

So every matter around us can be explained in Marxian way. The beauty is that a Marxist can always critic another Marxist which is considered to be a healthier practice among Marxists 😀

It is important to always to dig the issue to its core or we just get wrong.

One last point , On last Sunday at FSMK Office during the discussion, at one point I argued that Housewives also should be paid. Most of them opposed me. Those who opposed, try to emphasize on keywords “love” , “family” etc. I made this point not from a sympathy point of view but from a Marxist understanding of what is a labor ? what is a family? etc

Reading of “Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State” https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/origin_family.pdf helped me to get a different perspective on family. This work also answers why prostitution exists and that is directly connected to the origin of the family too. Similarly, a free software could be explained in a Marxist line.

According to me being a Marxist is a meaningful way of living too.

ATMs run into legal hurdle

Amid of promise made by GOI to start releasing Rs 2000 notes through ATMs , it seems to be not an easy task due to license cancellation of Software used in ATMs. Banks may not be able to restart their automated teller machines (ATMs) anytime soon because of a legal hurdle created by an American company withdrawing its software license to a private Indian company servicing over 40,000 ATMs for more than 30 leading public and private banks across India and warning banks not to use its software. Propitiatory companies are adding fuel to the fire in an already worsened situation by unplanned #Demonetization. Had it been any #FreeSoftware program there would not have any such dependency.

http://www.freepressjournal.in/india/atms-run-into-legal-hurdle/970557

 

Links from news media that covered programs in which I was also involved.

http://www.oneindia.com/feature/free-basics-its-not-really-free-access-to-the-entire-internet-1974199.html

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/efforts-to-blend-android-with-kerala-delicacy/article8632137.ece

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/520882/protest-against-facebooks-free-basics.html

http://m.dailyhunt.in/news/india/english/deccan+herald-epaper-deccan/protest+against+facebook+s+free+basics-newsid-48014322

https://medium.com/@belongchat/bridging-the-digital-gap-for-the-underprivileged-3403e318e130#.bytf04hp1

http://www.brunchnews.com/deccanherald/general-news/protest-against-facebook-s-free-basics-3995533

http://www.thehindu.com/news/a-silicon-tide-lifts-many-boats/article8691209.ece

http://www.engadget.com/2016/02/08/india-bans-zero-rating-internet-schemes/

Copyright and Copyleft

Copyright law applies to nearly all creative and intellectual works and works are protected automatically without copyright notice or registration.

The nature of the law is to tie the creative works with individuals/corporate companies not allowing the work to be publicly available for further use and improvements. The irony is that it is publishers and recorders whose interest led to the formation of  copyright law not the interest of authors.

When we historify  it is understood that all intellectual properties or creative works were made on top of some other intellectual properties. When we trace back to the origin of first intellectual properly( there is nothing called first intellectual property, but for the argument sake) it can be seen that origin of such creative works were from nature.  To be specific every creation is  the result  of exchange of ideas and knowledge sharing that have taken place throughout the history. Copyright law is basically an offense to such an argument.

Anti-copyright voices also have its root in history. Famous author Leo Tolstoy wanted to ensure that, everybody who wanted to read his books could do so for free. And he tried to do whatever possible to that happen by writing a will. But The copyright laws of the Russian Empire, however, made Tolstoy’s dream impossible.  In 2003, Eben Moglen, a professor of Law at Columbia University, published the dotCommunist Manifesto, which re-interpreted the Communist Manifesto by Marx in the light of the development of computer technology and the internet; much of the re-interpreted content discussed copyright law and privilege in Marxist terms.

Currently, there are groups advocating the abolition of copyright. Kopimi an anti-copyright initiative developed by the Piratbyrå in Sweeden, Pirate Cinema and groups like The League of Noble Peers are leading names that argue and campaign for abolishing  modern copyright law.

On continuing the fight against copyright one option was to violate the law and keep sharing materials to public “illegally” with a risk of ending up in jail. “Vigilant” state and a court would ensure that you go to jail or punished for doing so framing you as criminal or anti-national. What happened to Aaron Swartz is evident that state could go to any extreme to uphold what they think is correct.

The another option was to develop alternative platforms within the frame of current copyright law where some of the rights of copying or sharing of intellectual property are made possible. This is what gave birth to the idea of copyleft. Copyleft  mandates redistribution of an intellectual  property by tweaking or hacking ownership definition of copyright law. Copyleft is not a different law , it is part of copyright law.

How is that possible ?The copyright law grants to copyright owners a series or bundle of specified rights

Reproduction of works
Distribution of copies
Making of derivative works
Public performance and display of works.
In addition, certain works of visual art have moral rights regarding the name of the artist on the work or preventing the destruction of them.
Copyright owners may also have rights to prevent anyone from circumventing technological protection systems that control access to the works.

Based on this clauses a creator can decide what rights her creative works should have. This is nothing new, a creator could have made her work available to others to use,modify or distribute before the idea of copyleft was introduced. However, the cost of publishing creators works leads creators to assign her rights to publishers temporarily or permanently. From then publishers own the right of that particular work.

The Internet made publishing cost to come down drastically that fueled more creative works to be available for public and one of the main reason behind the success of “Free Software” and Creative Commons.

Copyleft license mandates below freedoms through certain licenses(collectively called as copyleft licenses) which are legal. i.e any creative works licensed under copyleft licenses are allowed to be used by anyone with some or no restriction.

0. the freedom to use the work,

1. the freedom to study the work,

2. the freedom to copy and share the work with others,

3. the freedom to modify the work, and the freedom to distribute modified and therefore derivative works.

The hack in copyleft license is that any derived work from a copyleft licensed work has to be published under the same copyleft license. This is to ensure that no one controls any such creative work as long as current copyright law is not modified.

On top of it, after a certain period, all creative works goes to public domain which is basically non-copyrighted anyone is free to use/distribute or make derivative out of it. Works in the public domain are those whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. One such collection of public domain music is musopen initiative. This portal provides a collection of public domain music that can be used by anyone without worrying about the copyright infringement and court cases.

The main reason why Shakespeare is the most quoted author in the world is because his works are in  public domain. History has already proven that when there are lesser restriction a literature work, song or any forms of intellectual property reaches to maximum people which every creator would love to see.

#DebateFreeSoftware

Most of the time mainstream discussions are fragmented and around the subject which ignores the social aspect without which it is incomplete.

How about saying  science in history instead of the history of science ?

How about thinking this way that “Computer is a product of social evolution” , so “Internet” ?

In a different context How about claiming that it is the people of India fought for the Independence from British, not few individuals ?

When it comes to “Free Software movement”, how about arguing Free Software movement is also a product of certain social circumstances ?

We all know that Free Software has evolved as a counter action against the control of ownership of ideas. Here we fight for the natural rights taken away from us. We are building an alternative platform where our natural rights of copying, sharing etc are reinforced by our own effort.

Is Free Software  a unique phenomenon without any correlation with other struggles that include the struggle  for better living conditions , the right to natural resources etc ?

The more we discuss the more we understand. The more we understand, our act would be more effective. Let’s discuss, debate and act

Computer programs (software) were free one point of time !!

Whether you know it or not computer programs were free one point of time , “Free as in Freedom” not as free as in free beer or free movie ticket.

At that time software was “free” by default. Sharing of software was not restricted in any manner. In the early 1970s and 80s situation started changing , software has started becoming a commodity. Many players entered into software development foreseeing probable multi-million software market in the future.Those Hacker communities then existed just disappeared, along with the freedom to share a software or piece of code. The natural right of copying banned by laws. More and more laws and policies were introduced in favor of corporate to help them in making money out of software business

Every social struggle arise from denial of some rights , By 70s and 80s such a counter movement started forming called as Free Software Movement,  with the goal of obtaining and guaranteeing certain freedoms for software users, namely the freedom to run the software, to study and change the software, and to redistribute copies with or without changes. Although drawing on traditions and philosophies among members of the 1970s hacker culture and academia, Richard Stallman formally founded the movement in 1983 by launching the GNU Project. Free Software has shaped up to an extent that you get alternative for almost all proprietary software that is available in market today and many of them are qualitatively better than it’s opposite.