4 May 2006

There is enormous political and economic power behind the idea that you shouldn't truly own your computer or your software, despite having paid for it

Security technologist Bruce Schneier pens an illuminating essay on the state of personal computing circa 2006.
You own your computer, of course. You bought it. You paid for it. But how much control do you really have over what happens on your machine? Technically you might have bought the hardware and software, but you have less control over what it's doing behind the scenes.

Using the hacker sense of the term, your computer is "owned" by other people.

It used to be that only malicious hackers were trying to own your computers. Whether through worms, viruses, Trojans or other means, they would try to install some kind of remote-control program onto your system. Then they'd use your computers to sniff passwords, make fraudulent bank transactions, send spam, initiate phishing attacks and so on. Estimates are that somewhere between hundreds of thousands and millions of computers are members of remotely controlled "bot" networks. Owned.

Now, things are not so simple. There are all sorts of interests vying for control of your computer. There are media companies that want to control what you can do with the music and videos they sell you. There are companies that use software as a conduit to collect marketing information, deliver advertising or do whatever it is their real owners require. And there are software companies that are trying to make money by pleasing not only their customers, but other companies they ally themselves with. All these companies want to own your computer.

Of the details recounted by Schneier, particulary insidious is the recent story about Sony distributed a rootkit (in the interests in DRM) and then asked antivirus providers like Symantec not to detect it. More disturbing is the little acknowledged truth that when a consumer "purchases" software, he merely obtains a license to only use the software, and ownership resides with the publisher, or whoever is authorized to market the license.

Just another reason to own a Mac or become a true freedom lover and use Linux and free software.


I've asked you so many questions about computers, because I increasingly believe Skynet really does exist.

What do you recommend for a good anti-virus software? My brother, a network guy says the best is AVG, a freeware program much better than Norton, etc. He swear by it, because his former company ceased having virus issues after switching to this program.
Any advice?
AVG is good, and I would recommend it over Norton/Symantec, McAfee, others... ...though I don't have any Win-doze computers in my home anymore...

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