Posts Tagged ‘Software as a Disservice’
This graphic is an addition to one of the more popular articles on this website, Ten Reasons Why Cloud Computing is a Bad Idea. Feel free to use it and reproduce it. A printout on an office/cubicle notice board can be fairly effective in spreading awareness on the subject.
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Have You Been Clouded? by Hamad Subani / Techtangerine.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.techtangerine.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.techtangerine.com/2011/11/06/have-you-been-clouded.
Norton 360 is considered to be the top ranked security suite for computers. And one that impacts system performance in a very minimal way.
But here’s what the “fine print” on a retail box of Norton 360 reads like:
‡1 Year Protection: With this service, you receive the right to use this product on one PC or on the specified number of PCs during the service period, which begins upon initial installation and activation. This renewable service includes protection updates and new product features as available throughout the service period, subject to acceptance of the Symantec License Agreement included with this product and available for review at www.symantec.com. Product features may be added, modified, or removed during the service period.
In other words, Norton 360 is not software. It is “rentware.” You get to use it for a specified period of time. After that, it becomes the software equivalent of a paperweight. To make sure that it does so, Norton comes with a comprehensive online license activation service, that $tart$ a countdown to the next renewal date.
This is a departure from Norton’s previous policies. For example, previous versions of Norton Internet Security allowed to software to still be used after the license had expired. Only the customer’s access to updated virus definitions was disabled after the license expired.
In Norton 360, once the one year license expires,
- The antivirus protection ceases downloading updates (obviously).
- You can no longer run scans on the computer (But I should be able to using my previous updates).
- The antivirus protection ceases to protect the computer (Antivirus protection can still be very potent without updates).
- You can no longer run backups on the computer (using Norton 360).
- You can no longer set Norton parental controls.
- You can no longer run the Norton start-up manager (which is a bundled utility).
- The Norton firewall turns off (Back to Windows Firewall!).
- Nearly all product functionality is lost.
Even non-security items, such as a password manager that comes bundled with Norton 360, denies you access to the website passwords you have stored in it. Bear in mind that this is a local utility that does not use Norton’s network services.
When purchasing boxed versions of software at retail outlets (at a premium price) it is assumed that the customer is taking ownership of the software, not “renting” it. And even if the terms of the fine print are to be applied, the customer does “own” the updates downloaded over the subscription period, and has the right to use them even after the subscription period has expired. And of course, he or she still has the right to use the software as it came, minus any new updates. For example, if you purchased a boxed version of Windows 95, you can still use it on a computer, even though that may not be a good idea. And you don’t expect Microsoft to disable the product.
Norton 360’s “rentware” agreement enforcement ironically endangers the security of computers it vouches to protect. For example, lets suppose that you cannot renew your subscription because you are in a foreign country and do not have access to your credit card. Or lets suppose you don’t want to pay the full price for a new subscription, and instead you are waiting for retail stores to slash prices on the boxed versions of Norton 360. Until you renew the subscription, your computer will be left vulnerable, without any kind of antivirus protection.
Depending on how angry this post makes you, you may switch to a free antivirus software. Or you may abandon Windows altogether, given the fact that when you pay Norton, you are paying for covering Windows vulnerabilities even though Windows is offering free antivirus to cheer you up.Loading ...
If you haven’t jumped into the Cloud Computing bandwagon yet, here are ten reasons why you should reconsider.
Cloud Computing makes your IT excessively dependent on the Internet
Cloud Computing exists on the premise that the Internet will always be as robust and reliable for all time to come. While one can be fairly optimistic, there is always the danger of the unforeseen. For example, Congressmen in the United States are pushing for bills that can shutdown/limit Internet traffic in the event of war, so that the sheeple stick to their prescribed content on television. Another country, Syria, managed to completely erase itself from the Internet when civil war broke out in late 2012. If a Company loses Internet connectivity to its Cloud even for a few days, as a result of an Internet outage affecting either it or the Cloud Computing Service, there could be very damaging consequences. I am not talking about your E-store going offline. Suppose the daily activities of your Company were on a database on a Cloud? In such a scenario, you may wish your servers were in that makeshift bunker in your backyard, rather than on the Cloud.
And because of its dependence on the Internet, Cloud Computing can never perform as a substitute for in-house servers. For example, there are speed limits, related to hardware and bandwidth, when transferring data to and from the Cloud via the Internet. Using VPNs and SSL tunnels can further slow the speed.
Cloud Computing will attract clients mainly from Western markets
Cloud Computing implicitly assumes that the Internet is as robust throughout the world as it is in North America, Europe and some parts of Asia. But clients from countries where Internet connectivity is sporadic will be discouraged from boarding the Cloud. And no, I am not talking about Namibia. IT powerhouse India still has sporadic Internet connectivity. The general speed of the Internet is still very poor. The infrastructure is so haphazard that most Indian Internet subscribers prefer the limited speeds of wireless mobile Internet from the cell phone companies, rather than trust the cable/landline infrastructure. In addition, uninterrupted supply of electricity is still unrealised in India. A power outage affecting any intermediary can cripple access to the Cloud. Indian IT giants have learnt the hard way not to trust state infrastructure, even for electricity. They keep their own backup power generation on site. Adopting any trend that makes them more dependent on state infrastructure will require more than a leap of faith.
Cloud Computing makes you dependent on the goodwill of your ISP
Cloud Computing may require gratuitous bandwidth for the client, depending on what the client is hosting on the Cloud. And the same ISPs who are clamouring for bandwidth caps may charge and arm and a leg if the client exceeds his or her bandwidth quota.
Cloud Computing can expose you to the unethical practices of your ISP
Major ISPs have come under fire for spying on their customer’s P2P networks on behalf of the Recording Industry. Can these ISPs be trusted with sensitive traffic to and from the Cloud? We are told that everything will be encrypted through VPNs. But still, given the tainted role of ISPs, can ISPs be trusted for non-encrypted traffic?
Cloud Computing is against the spirit of Personal Computing
Personal Computers were meant to empower individuals, make them more independent and productive. Most of today’s industry heavyweights owe their success to living up to these expectations. Microsoft and IBM’s unexpected touting of Cloud Computing is more akin to Toyota adopting the business model of a car rental agency (If that were to happen, Toyota may likewise rebrand itself in the fashion of Silicon Valley, as a subscription based Transport Service Provider).
It is no surprise that old timers, such as Steve Wozniak who have been at the forefront of the development of personal computing, have publicly voiced their concerns over Cloud Computing.
Cloud Computing makes your Cloud Data subject to American law
Since most of the major Cloud Computing servers are operated by companies based in the United States, data you put on your Cloud is subject to American law. And the American law in turn, is subject to overrides, loopholes, “Patriot Acts,” and exceptions, depending on which governmental agency (or which person/interest) wants your data. You may not even be informed that your data was compromised for the same reason Jack Bauer gets away with torturing his hostages/prisoners (national security). And even if there is no “national security” issue, Cloud data no longer needs a warrant to be obtained by the authorities. To quote,
Documents, Photos, and Other Stuff Stored Online
How They Get It:
Authorities typically need only a subpoena to get data from Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive, and other services that allow users to store data on their servers, or “in the cloud,” as it’s known.
What the Law Says:
The law treats cloud data the same as draft emails — authorities don’t need a warrant to get it. But files that you’ve shared with others — say, a collaboration using Google Docs — might require a warrant under the ECPA if it’s considered “communication” rather than stored data. “That’s a very hard rule to apply,” says Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel with the Center for Democracy & Technology. “It actually makes no sense for the way we communicate today.”
And before reaching the Cloud, your data will pass through American ISPs that provide the Cloud with uptime. It could be intercepted by State Agencies even before it reaches the Cloud.
A case point is that of Amazon Web Services, a flagship of the cloud computing model. Amazon Web Services quietly booted whistleblowing website Wikileaks off their cloud computing servers. This was done without any court order. Looks like Amazon Web Services is also a flagship of the American government. In another piece of news, Amazon has won a $600 million contract to build a Cloud Computing System for the CIA.
Most American businesses with a shred of integrity in this regard have already closed doors, and therefore those that remain in business should be considered suspect. Take the case of Lavabit, a highly secure (and free) POP/IMAP/Webmail email service. This service was used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. On 8th August 2013, Lavabit users were greeted with the following message:
My Fellow Users,
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.
What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.
This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC
Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.
Or take the case of Cryptoseal Privacy, a VPN service which suddenly shuttered leaving perplexed users with the following message:
With immediate effect as of this notice, CryptoSeal Privacy, our consumer VPN service, is terminated. All cryptographic keys used in the operation of the service have been zerofilled, and while no logs were produced (by design) during operation of the service, all records created incidental to the operation of the service have been deleted to the best of our ability. Essentially, the service was created and operated under a certain understanding of current US law, and that understanding may not currently be valid. As we are a US company and comply fully with US law, but wish to protect the privacy of our users, it is impossible for us to continue offering the CryptoSeal Privacy consumer VPN product.
In other words, if your service provider is based in America and hasn’t already shuttered over ethical concerns, chances are that it is sharing your data with the NSA.
Cloud Computing can expose your Confidential Data to “Corrupt Elements” (and no, I am not talking about hackers and identity thieves)
Since corruption in Western society is more of an invitation-only club, most people refer to it only in couched terms. But unless you are really naive, it is a reality you must be prepared to deal with. Back in 2004, a Utah guy got an application for a major credit card. The problem was that the name and address on the application had only been provided to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
The bad news is not that American State Agencies have backdoor access to American corporations. Rather, American corporations have an incestuous relationship with American State Agencies. If suppose you are a non-American corporation with your Cloud hosted by an American corporation, and your main competitor is an American heavyweight with backdoor access to the State Agencies, your confidential data on the Cloud may be just a few phone calls away. American corporations are known to use the State Agencies as personal armies, although very little of this gets documented. Worse, if the CEO of the Company that hosts your Cloud and the CEO of your competitor belong to the same fraternity, your confidential data on the cloud may be just a handshake away. Of course, your data on the Cloud is encrypted and cannot be accessed by anyone other than yourself. But then, there are always exceptions.
Amazon Web Services is considered to be a flagship of the Cloud Computing model. In July 2009, Amazon.com sneakily deleted etexts off its users Kindles. Ironically, the extexts deleted were George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. Both these books deal with the suppression of dissent by totalitarian regimes. The furore that followed the move was attributed to the fact that Amazon.com had remotely deleted files that were on the user’s own device, and therefore the move was like a hacker-style intrusion. But if suppose the Kindle followed the Cloud Computing model, where ebooks were read and stored online instead of the device itself, Amazon.com would probably never get caught. And the unavailablity of these titles could be attributed to an innocuous server outage.
In April 2010, China hijacked the Internet for 18 minutes by “tricking” other telecom routers. Nearly 15% of all American civilian and military Internet traffic was quietly redirected into Chinese networks before being rerouted without delay. If your cloud data transfers were included in this traffic, there is a possibility that it is being dissected somewhere in Beijing. Regular users of cloud computing should be warned that their data transfers can fall into the hand of whichever nation that goes on a bandwidth sucking rampage.
Cloud Computing is sounding more like a Lobby than a Trend
Suddenly, all ringers, gurus, and experts are clamouring for Cloud Computing. Articles are appearing in respectable publications weighing the pros and cons. Business heads are flaunting how they managed to cut costs. Does this remind you of Big Tobacco, Big Sugar, Big Science and Big Pharma? Do you buy into the pitch? Are you willing to “invest” your data in the scheme?
Cloud Computing may be of little consequence for the Average Small Business
The May 2009 issue of WIRED carried an interesting article on Cloud Computing, highlighting pros and cons. The key example cited in favour of Cloud Computing was an Eli Lily information consultant, who as a client of Amazon Web Services uses his iPhone to run “genomic analysis” on the Cloud. How many businesses executives can picture themselves doing this?
Cloud Computing may not contribute to your national economy
When you buy the hardware, software and technical expertise for setting up a server locally, you are supporting several local businesses. With Cloud Computing, you bypass all of these. But aren’t the major Cloud Computing providers American owned and American based? Yes they are. But when they get things figured out, they might consider outsourcing. And Cloud Computing is very feasible to outsource. Given their track record, they don’t exactly cherish employing Americans, unless Obama forces them to do so.
Update (An Eleventh Reason?): Cloud Computing may not be as reliable as touted.
To quote AP News 21/04/2011,
Major websites including Foursquare and Reddit crashed or suffered slowdowns Thursday after technical problems rattled Amazon.com’s widely used Web servers, frustrating millions of people who couldn’t access their favorite sites.
Though better known for selling books, DVDs and other consumer goods, Amazon also rents out space on huge computer servers that run many websites and other online services.
The problems began at an Amazon data center near Dulles Airport outside Washington and persisted into the afternoon. The failures were widespread, but they varied in severity.
HootSuite, which lets users monitor Twitter and other social networks more easily, was down completely, as was questions-and-answers site Quora.
The location-sharing social network Foursquare experienced glitches, while the news-sharing site Reddit was in “emergency read-only mode.”
Many other companies that use Amazon Web Services, like Netflix Inc. and Zynga Inc., which runs Facebook games, appeared to be unscathed. Amazon has at least one other major data center that stayed up, in California.
No one knew for sure how many people were inconvenienced, but the services affected are used by millions.
Amazon Web Services provide “cloud” or utility-style computing in which customers pay only for the computing power and storage they need, on remote computers.
Lydia Leong, an analyst for the tech research firm Gartner, said that judging by details posted on Amazon’s AWS status page, a network connection failed Thursday morning, triggering an automatic recovery mechanism that then also failed.
Amazon’s computers are divided into groups that are supposed to be independent of each other. If one group fails, others should stay up. And customers are encouraged to spread the computers they rent over several groups to ensure reliable service. But Thursday’s problem took out many groups simultaneously.
Update (a Twelfth reason?): Michael Chertoff Loves Cloud Computing
In 1999, an obscure conspiracy theorist, David Icke, made a startling claim. He stated that the ruling elite of the Western world were actually shape-shifting lizards. This theory became a laughing matter and was even used to smear genuine conspiracy theorists. But no matter how much time passed, the theory would simply not die. Ask any follower of Icke, and they will point you to images of the ruling elite, such as this photograph of Michael Chertoff (Secretary of homeland security from 2005 to 2009). That is supposedly the face he makes before shape-shifting into a ten foot lizard. Even we are to dismiss the claims of Icke’s followers, the generally accepted consensus among the alternate media is that the man exists to defecate on the liberties of the American people. Chertoff’s grandpoppa is of Russian origin, and in Soviet Russia, Internet surfs YOU! In a February 9th 2012 op-ed in the Washington post, Chertoff can be seen whining how EU privacy laws may “balkanize” the Internet, because American Cloud Computing providers will not be allowed to invade the privacy of their European customers.
Update (A Thirteenth Reason?): Like it or not, Cloud Computing is being forced down your throat
In late June of 2012, some Internet users discovered that they were being prevented from accessing certain websites that contained keywords relating to porn and copyright infringement. It turns out that Cisco had remotely updated their router software, forcing them to use a new cloud service that censored websites containing the aforementioned keywords. In order for the censorship to work, the urls the Internet users were visiting were being forwarded to Cisco’s Connect Cloud Service and people rightly feared that Cisco was using the Cloud to spy on their Internet activities. Cisco quickly backtracked and issued an apology.
In more recent shenanigans, the babyish design of the Windows 8 tile interface was discovered to be another attempt to shove Cloud Computing on unsuspecting computer users. While the Tile interface is great for touchscreens and tablets, it can be fairly problematic when it comes to managing files. There is no way to access the Windows file system through it. The Tiles got the Windows user base so grumpy that Windows 8 caused the most precipitous decline in PC history! And the dumbed down approach has caused such consternation among power users that the free Windows 8.1 update restores the classic “Start” button and allows users to bypass the Tile interface to reach the good old “Desktop.” Microsoft has touted the Tile interface as a way for your apps and programs to provide you with updated information while running in the background. But the apps and programs that provide “live” info through Tiles are mainly cloud based apps. For example, Microsoft charges a hefty price for its Outlook mail client. Any rational user would expect that there would be an Outlook Tile which would notify them of new messages, reminders and calendar appointments, given the simplicity of programming such a Tile. But no, there ain’t. The only usable Tile that can be used for email and calendar hooks up to Microsoft’s cloud-based email service. Outlook users drawing mail from their own email service providers are simply not invited to the Tile interface. To quote on exasperated user:
They are trying to FORCE people into the cloud, Their cloud in order to get these tiles to work at all.
And another user:
I think that Microsoft will soon find itself under the guns of the law AGAIN if they don’t release a way for people to use these features with an enterprise environment WITHOUT having to use their live accounts. It is crazy to think that they are trying to force an enterprise user to use their mail and calendar apps, but won’t let you use your information locally in it. I think that Microsoft ahs really missed the mark here. I know that most tester and die-hards will just say “use the main Outlook” and I am. Here is the point though, IF you are going to supposedly revolutionize Windows and take away a]our START button and force us to use the new UI, Then the LEAST you can do is make all the bells and whistles offered work Locally and through your new online service. Don’t tell us that in order for it to work, we can only use yours.
The Mail and Calendar Tiles that do work in Windows 8 sync up with Microsoft’s servers. Given the fact that Microsoft has officially admitted to releasing the data of 137,424 of its users to various world governments, can it be trusted with such private information?
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What is a techtangerine?
The original tagline of this site was: "Tips, Tricks, DIY, Hacks and Rants by Hamad Subani." Since then, techtangerine has become a place to unload highly original meditations, musings and opinion on the tech world. In a nutshell (or tangerine?) this is about giving back to the web.