Thursday, August 21, 2014

GNU hackers discover HACIENDA government surveillance and give us a way to fight back

GNU community members and collaborators have discovered threatening details about a five-country government surveillance program codenamed HACIENDA. The good news? Those same hackers have already worked out a free software countermeasure to thwart the program.

According to Heise newspaper, the intelligence agencies of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, have used HACIENDA to map every server in twenty-seven countries, employing a technique known as port scanning. The agencies have shared this map and use it to plan intrusions into the servers. Disturbingly, the HACIENDA system actually hijacks civilian computers to do some of its dirty work, allowing it to leach computing resources and cover its tracks.

But this was not enough to stop the team of GNU hackers and their collaborators. After making key discoveries about the details of HACIENDA, Julian Kirsch, Christian Grothoff, Jacob Appelbaum, and Holger Kenn designed the TCP Stealth system to protect unadvertised servers from port scanning. They revealed their work at the recent annual GNU Hackers' Meeting in Germany.

We must fight the political battle for an end to mass surveillance and reduce the amount of data collected about people in the first place. On an individual level we have to do everything we can to thwart the surveillance programs that are already in place.

No matter your skill level, you can get involved at the FSF's surveillance page.

Ethical developers inside and outside GNU have been working for years on free software that does not keep secrets from users, and programs that anyone can review to remove potential vulnerabilities. These capabilities give free software users a fighting chance against surveillance. Now, our community is turning its attention to uncovering and undermining insidious programs like HACIENDA. Free software and its ideals are crucial to putting an end to government bulk surveillance.

Share this news with your friends, to help make people aware of the importance of free software in fighting bulk surveillance.

Jacob Appelbaum of the TCP Stealth team gave a remote keynote address at the FSF's LibrePlanet conference this year. Watch the recording of "Free Software for freedom: Surveillance and you."

Libby Reinish and Zak Rogoff
Campaigns Managers

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Richard Stallman's TEDx video: "Introduction to free software and the liberation of cyberspace"

Are you in search of an easy way to explain to others what free software is and why it matters? Or are you perhaps wondering why you yourself should be concerned about computer-user freedom? If your answer is yes, then this TEDx talk by FSF president Richard Stallman (RMS) is what you're looking for!

RMS was invited to give a TEDx talk at "FREEDOM (@ digital age)" in April and took the opportunity to explain the fundamentals of the free software movement to the general public. In this speech, RMS introduces the issue and makes the stakes clear; he explains what a computer is and who controls it, what the various implications of free software and of proprietary software are for you, the user, what you can do to stop being a victim, what the obstacles to computer-user freedom are, and how you can make a difference.
The TEDx talks are "designed to help communities, organizations, and individuals to spark conversation and connection through local TED-like experiences." At these events, screenings of videos, like this one, "or a combination of live presenters and TED Talks videos — sparks deep conversation and connections at the local level."
We hope you share the recording, to help raise awareness and inspire conversations and connections in your own circles, and introduce a friend, loved one, or acquaintance, to this "first step in the liberation of cyberspace."
If you watch any TEDx talks on YouTube, please remember to use a free program like youtube-dl instead of your browser, because watching YouTube in your browser requires proprietary JavaScript.
Many thanks to Théo Bondolfi, François Epars, Florence Dambricourt, and the TEDxGeneva core-team for making this speech possible. Thank you to and HEG-GE for hosting and supporting the event, and to Sylvain & Co., La Belle Bleue, and Jus de Fruits Suisses, ProLibre, and the Fondation Emilie Gourd, Piguet Galland & Cie., Lifelong Learning Programme, Genève, My Big Geneva, and Smala for their support.
Jeanne Rasata
Assistant to the President
P.S. RMS does not draw a salary from the FSF, but your donations do support the coordination of events and videos like this. We'd love to produce more introductory videos. Can you donate $25 today?

Friday, August 8, 2014

GNU Radio controls the ISEE-3 Spacecraft

The ISEE-3 spacecraft
An original drawing of the ISEE

The International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, or ISEE-3, was launched in 1978 by NASA to monitor activity on the sun. After three years of observation, NASA repurposed the satellite, which soon became the first spacecraft to visit a comet. The mission ended in 1999, when NASA abandoned ISEE-3 to orbit the Sun, despite the fact that twelve of the satellite's thirteen instruments were still working.

In 2008, when it was discovered that the satellite was still transmitting a signal and would fly close to Earth, NASA realized that they no longer had the funding or equipment to reinitiate contact. So a volunteer group of scientists, programmers, and engineers organized the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, which was crowd-funded with over $150,000 in donations, and set out to contact the spacecraft, fire its engine, and bring it closer to Earth to resume its original mission.

To do this, the group turned to GNU Radio, a free software toolkit for implementing software-defined radios and signal processing systems. Modifying the software to communicate in the 1970s satellite protocol, members of the reboot project were able to gain access to the spacecraft and fire its thrusters in early July, and will soon attempt to move the satellite into an orbit close to Earth.

You can support GNU Radio by making a donation through the FSF's Working Together for Free Software Fund. To get more involved, attend the annual GNU Radio Conference, to be held this year between September 15th and 19th in Washington, D.C.

The successes of the ISEE-3 Reboot project demonstrate the importance of developing, maintaining, and promoting free software. With dozens of contributors and thousands of users, GNU Radio is written to be shared, learned, and improved by anyone, anywhere -- unlike the lost proprietary communications equipment used by NASA.

This is the second time we've lauded the use of free software for space exploration in the last two years. Read our 2013 blog post about the choice of GNU/Linux as the operating of the International Space Station.

"This openness to inquiry, collaboration, and 'standing on the shoulders of giants' is at the heart of all science," wrote John Gilmore, a founding member of the GNU Radio project, in an email to the FSF. "The GNU Project has institutionalized those principles in a vast community of software authors and users. And GNU's legalized freedom and sharing [...] enable many people to use it and contribute to it -- such as these volunteers."

Alex Patel

Friday, August 1, 2014

Volunteers translate Email Self-Defense guide into Spanish, Romanian, and more

Email Self-Defense
When the FSF launched our guide to personal email encryption last month, it was enthusiastically received by English-speakers looking for an easy way to get started fighting bulk surveillance. Our community then came together to translate it and bring it to speakers of six more languages. Today we're launching the second round of translations: Spanish, Romanian, Italian, and Greek.
This guide started as an effort of the FSF and some skilled graphic and Web designers, but it's become a worldwide effort by free software activists translating in more than ten countries. This kind of teamwork is what our movement is all about, and the FSF is thrilled to facilitate it.
The Free Software Foundation provides the infrastructure and professional management for our community of translators, and rigorously researches and refines the material in Email Self-Defense. We also maintain Edward, the multilingual encryption reply bot program. We've spent a lot of time and energy on this guide so far, and we want to spend more, but we need resources.
Can you donate to help us recoup some of the cost we've put into creating this guide and fostering a community around it?
Your donation will also enable us to make technical infrastructure improvements to to make it easy to translate into more languages, and hopefully let us add a set of instructions for using encryption on mobile devices.
Our goal is to make email encryption approachable for people speaking any language and using any device, while also using the guide to deliver a clear message about the importance of free software.
If you'd like to create a version for a language that we haven't published yet, or help maintain one of the existing translations, please send an email to telling us about your experiences with translating.
We're also looking for people to join the translation team and create translated versions of Richard Stallman's article "How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand?" The article makes the point that, to fight bulk surveillance, we need to reduce the amount of data that is collected about our lives in general (both by government and private entities).
Thank you for being such a supportive community, and coming forward to help us with this project. We're happy to be making it easier for you to protect your privacy and put up a defense against surveillance.
Please email us at if you'd like to donate in Euros.
Zak Rogoff
Campaigns Manage

UK Government chooses Open Document Format | Free Software Supporter - Issue 76, July 2014

Free Software Supporter

Issue 76, July 2014
Welcome to the Free Software Supporter, the Free Software Foundation's monthly news digest and action update -- being read by you and 81,589 other activists. That's 1,228 more than last month!


  • FSF congratulates UK Government on choosing Open Document Format
  • Interview with
  • Introducing Tyler Livingston, a summer Licensing Team intern
  • Tell the FCC: Net Neutrality is crucial to free software
  • Seattle free software event this fall: Call for Participation now open
  • Welcome Jessica Tallon, GNU MediaGoblin's second full-time hire
  • European Commission distorts market by refusing to break free from lock-in
  • LibrePlanet featured resource: Community toolkit
  • GNU Spotlight with Karl Berry: 18 new GNU releases!
  • GNU Toolchain Update
  • Richard Stallman's speaking schedule and other FSF events
  • Thank GNUs!
  • Take action with the FSF!

FSF congratulates UK Government on choosing Open Document Format

From July 29th
If you live in the UK, you'll soon be able to fill out government paperwork with your freedoms intact. The British government announced last week that Open Document Format (ODF), HTML, and PDF will be the official file formats used by all government agencies.

Interview with

From July 21st
In the latest installment of our Licensing and Compliance Lab's series on free software developers who choose GNU licenses for their works, we conducted an email-based interview with David Lohle from the Tox project, an all-in-one communication platform and protocol that ensures users full privacy and secure message delivery.

Introducing Tyler Livingston, a summer Licensing Team intern

From July 21st
Tyler Livingston is one of the Licensing Team's summer interns. In this post he discusses the importance of free software and his personal interests.

Tell the FCC: Net Neutrality is crucial to free software

From July 14th
Net neutrality, the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally, is crucial for free software's continued growth and success. The FCC has asked members of the public, along with industry leaders and entrepreneurs, to tell it why Internet Service Providers should be banned from traffic discrimination.

Seattle free software event this fall: Call for Participation now open

From July 1st
The Seattle GNU/Linux Conference (SeaGL), a free software conference taking place on October 24 and 25, has just announced Karen Sandler, executive director of Software Freedom Conservancy, as a keynote speaker and opened its Call for Participation.

Welcome Jessica Tallon, GNU MediaGoblin's second full-time hire

By Deb Nicholson and Chris Webber, from July 28th
Jessica Tallon, who originally joined GNU MediaGoblin last year as part of the Outreach Program for Women, has recently been working on federation support in the project.

European Commission distorts market by refusing to break free from lock-in

By FSF Europe, from July 8th
The European Commission has recently renewed its commitment to a proprietary desktop and secret file formats. The Commission is refusing to get serious about breaking free from vendor lock-in, and is ignoring all available alternatives. In doing so, the EU's civil service fails to practice what it preaches.

Join the FSF and friends in updating the Free Software Directory

From July 30th
Tens of thousands of people visit each month to discover free software. Each entry in the Directory contains a wealth of useful information, from basic category and descriptions to version control, IRC channels, documentation, and licensing. The Free Software Directory has been a great resource to software users over the past decade, but it needs your help staying up-to-date with new and exciting free software projects.
To help, join our weekly IRC meetings on Fridays. Meetings take place in the #fsf channel on, and usually include a handful of regulars as well as newcomers. Everyone's welcome.
The next meeting is Friday, August 1 from 2pm to 5pm EDT (18:00 to 21:00 UTC). Details here:
After this meeting, you can check to see the rest of August's weekly meetings as they are scheduled.

LibrePlanet featured resource: Community toolkit

Every month on LibrePlanet, we highlight one resource that is interesting and useful -- often one that could use your help.
For this month, we are highlighting our Community toolkit, which collects information about software that can be used by nonprofits, community groups, and individuals to advance the cause of free software. You are invited to adopt, spread and improve this important resource.
Do you have a suggestion for next month's featured resource? Let us know at

GNU Spotlight with Karl Berry: 18 new GNU releases!

18 new GNU releases in the last month (as of July 26, 2014):
To get announcements of most new GNU releases, subscribe to the info-gnu mailing list: Nearly all GNU software is available from, or preferably one of its mirrors ( You can use the url to be automatically redirected to a (hopefully) nearby and up-to-date mirror.
This month, we welcome Mose Giordano as a new co-maintainer of AUC-TeX, James Cloos as a new co-maintainer of a2ps (following his work on GNU enscript and trueprint), and Assaf Gordon as the author and maintainer of the new package datamash. Thanks to all.
Also, please consider attending the GNU Hackers' Meeting, in Munich this year, August 15-17; attendance is gratis, but pre-registration is essential (and needs to be done immediately).
A number of GNU packages, as well as the GNU operating system as a whole, are looking for maintainers and other assistance: please see if you'd like to help. The general page on how to help GNU is at To submit new packages to the GNU operating system, see
As always, please feel free to write to me,, with any GNUish questions or suggestions for future installments.

GNU Toolchain update

From July 14th
The GNU toolchain refers to the part of the GNU system which is used for building programs. These components of GNU are together often on other systems and for compiling programs for other platforms.
This month features updates to binutils and GCC, including a new test coverage program called gcov-tool.

Richard Stallman's speaking schedule

For event details, as well as to sign-up to be notified for future events in your area, please visit
So far, Richard Stallman has the following events in July:

Other FSF and free software events

Thank GNUs!

We appreciate everyone who donates to the Free Software Foundation, but we'd like to give special recognition to the folks who have donated $500 or more in the last month.
This month, a big Thank GNU to:
  • Norman Richards
  • Michael Henderson
  • Zachary Tatum
You can add your name to this list by donating at

Take action with the FSF

Contributions from thousands of individual members enable the FSF's work. You can contribute by joining at If you're already a member, you can help refer new members (and earn some rewards) by adding a line with your member number to your email signature like:
I'm an FSF member -- Help us support software freedom!
The FSF is also always looking for volunteers ( From rabble-rousing to hacking, from issue coordination to envelope stuffing -- there's something here for everybody to do. Also, head over to our campaign section ( and take action on software patents, DRM, free software adoption, OpenDocument, RIAA and more.


Copyright © 2014 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit