Hello, Lawmakers in Greece. Have You Heard about Open Source Software?

December 15, 2022

I read a story from an outfit which makes quoting one of the stories risky business. The write up in question is “As Wiretap Claims Rattle Government, Greece Bans Spyware.” The article presents as real news — allegedly the old fashioned kind when newspapers were arbiters of truth via stringers — that Greece outlaws what it calls commercial spyware. For a number of years, I have used the term “intelware” to describe the specialized services and software provided to government agencies by commercial enterprises and open source developers.

The article does the normal handwaving associated with products and services which have been available since the mid 19th century. Those early systems chugged along within products from Bell, Systems Development Corporation, and others. I have found the bland names fascinating. Systems Development Corporation? What could be better? If you read Jill Lepore’s techno-noir history, you will know more than you ever wanted to know about Simulmatics. There’s a descriptive company name for you, right?

What happens when a government bans specialized services and software? Some interesting things; for example, it may be tough to know when warships from a friendly country are converging on a critical island. What if a country on Greece’s border gets frisky with its Soviet era tanks and artillery? The answer is, “License those specialized software and systems. Now!”

In terms of the ban on commercial intelware, what’s Greece going to do with the open source version of Maltego or one of dozens of other tools which can ingest digital content and output useful facts. What happens when one of those open source intelware tools requires an extension of functions?

The answer is to hire a consulting firm, hopefully not one affiliated with a certain jewelry store in Athens, to create bespoke code. Once that’s done, won’t government entities use these tools to protect citizen and monitor potential threats?

The answer is, “You bet your life.” The secret word is “politicians.” I am not sure of Greek’s elected officials or the people reporting on the world of intelware understand the difference between handwaving and getting a particular job done.

And the story. Oh, objective and an example of publicizing the considered viewpoints of elected officials.

Stephen E Arnold, December 15, 2022


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