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Microsoft Complaints Help Russian Gov't Pursue Political Opposition Groups 249

asaz989 writes "The New York Times reports that Russia selectively pursues software piracy complaints from Microsoft in order to suppress the opposition — confiscating computers for evidence, searching offices, and the like. Microsoft lawyers usually back the authorities in such cases, even when cases such as that of the environmentalist group Baikal Waves, which went out of its way to buy licenses to prevent police harassment and nevertheless had its offices raided, and its computers confiscated. Microsoft participated in this legal process. Published alongside this story, under the same byline, is a related piece on the collusion of Microsoft lawyers with corrupt Russian police in extorting money from the targets of software piracy investigations. In a responding press release, the company states, 'Microsoft antipiracy efforts are designed to honor both [antipiracy concerns and human rights], but we are open to feedback on what we can do to improve in that regard.'"
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Microsoft Complaints Help Russian Gov't Pursue Political Opposition Groups

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  • Re:Troll story? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blackraven14250 ( 902843 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:21AM (#33552168)

    You know, while I know it's popular opinion to hate on Microsoft on slashdot, doesn't it seem to me that it's the Russian government abusing their own laws in order to screw the opposition, rather than Microsoft sitting there plotting how to hurt people? If it wasn't this, it would be something else.

    Just sayin'..

    Well, modern Russia is known for extreme corruption, literally from the level of local police up to the top. They will use any method possible, regardless as to Microsoft's involvement.

    I was watching Fareed Zakaria GPS about 2 weeks ago, and he had a guy on whose business was literally stolen by local police. They raided the offices, took a set of papers required to own the business as part of the raid, transferred it to an inmate's name, who was serving a long sentence, then had a shell corporation sue the business. The judge entered a billion-dollar judgment within a day. Then, the lawyer who discovered all of this testified against the cops. He got thrown in jail for 6 months, where his water purifier was stolen while he was moved around a whole bunch of times in the prison, and eventually died there.

    William Browder was the man running Hermitage in Russia before this whole thing happened.

  • by zlogic ( 892404 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:38AM (#33552258)

    Russian authorities often (but luckily not always) decide that if you're using Linux, you have something to hide. After all, the interface is completely different so this must be an evasive move to prevent authorities from searching for incriminating stuff with Windows Explorer's Search function. Automated tools for extracting web history, chat logs and email cannot be launched on a Linux machine. Also, the OS can be modified to hide stuff or do some nasty hacking shit. And no, I'm not joking.

  • by Ogi_UnixNut ( 916982 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:52AM (#33552310) Homepage

    That sounds like the same crap we get from law enforcement here in the UK. If a police officer sees a PC that does not run windows, they usually assume you are hiding something from them. I've actually heard them refer to it as "that hacker system". Seems that unless you are running Microsoft software (or a Mac running OSX), they will generally suspect you of something. Primarily because they seem to think that if you are not using Windows, it's a deliberate ploy to prevent their "forensic tools" and "experts" from prying, and that you are using it for "non-legal" purposes.

    God forbid they ever look at my laptop, in addition to it not being windows, it starts up in command line mode, and has encrypted partitions and files all over the place. I would not like to find out what explaining that to them would be like (let alone what would happen if they don't believe me).

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:44AM (#33552598) Journal

    >>>That sounds like the same crap we get from law enforcement here in the [A$]. If a police officer sees a PC that does not run windows, they usually assume you are hiding something

    where A$ == EU, US, Canada, Australia, and so on. I don't think this is necessarily government poliy, but merely the innate instinct of human being to distrust things that are strange or unfamiliar to them.

    >>>I would not like to find out what explaining that to them would be like

    Good grief... NEVER TALK TO POLICE. Exercise your inalienable right to speak freely AND exercise your inalienable right to not speak/ remain silent. See this video. Part 1 is the law professor, and Part 2 is the cop whose job is to entrap you into admitting guilt, even if you are completely innocent - []

  • by Ogi_UnixNut ( 916982 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:14AM (#33552764) Homepage

    Indeed, a really messed up law, although really convenient if you want to put someone away for a limited time.

    Assuming you have some access to their computer, All you have to do is place some files full of random data with an extension of "gpg" then anonymously tip off the cops that you saw your target viewing CP on their laptop. They arrest the guy, confiscate the laptop, find the files (which look like encrypted containers) and demand an encryption key that doesn't exist. Unless the guy somehow can convince them otherwise, he can get a 3 year stint in prison, even if he is totally innocent of the charges levied against him.

  • Re:Troll story? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Erikderzweite ( 1146485 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:33AM (#33552890)

    Russia's government wants to join the WTO badly. Software piracy is cited as one of the major obstacle for them. So they need to conduct anti-piracy raids. And while they're at it, why not smash some anti-government groups in the process?

    For Microsoft it is business as usual — they get their share of "buy licenses" PR without risking backlash from the government (which will happen if they sue wrong people).

    The priorities are somehow wrong in TFA and in popular opinion on /. IMO. Opposition groups are pawns here, seen as expendable by both government and Microsoft. Russia's government isn't facing any real competition right now, they can afford to ignore such groups altogether. Neither is Microsoft going to lose the vast marketshare gained by pirates for them.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:25PM (#33553310) Journal

    >>>cite a reasonable number of instances where random people in the West have been stopped and their laptops inspected.

    Youtube has dozens of videos where people were asked to do exactly that. Frankly it amazes me that you (and many others) have never seen these vids. They are right there within easy access. There are also videos of cops dragging citizens out of their cars and beating them, even though said citizen had done nothing wrong (except refuse to consent to a search w/o warrant).

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:13PM (#33553910) Journal

    After spending three days trying to teach someone whose Windows XP machine barfed to use Windows 7 and Windows Live Mail all I can say is "Bullshit!" to the learning curve argument. I wager at the end of the day she (and I) would have been further ahead to have thrown Kubuntu on their and used Thunderbird for the mail client.

    The best part about Windows Live Mail was when she tried to open some PowerPoint files, and it refused to open them, and I had to go into the registry to alter the class settings to turn "Show" into "Open". Yeah, that's a really easy learning curve there.

    The argument may have made some sense even five or six years ago, but the better Linux distros have had hardware detects that are nearly as good as Windows. I haven't had Debian or Ubuntu barf on any of the workstation or server machines I work with in about three years.

  • by FilatovEV ( 1520307 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:15PM (#33553918)
    Don't be fooled by the article. The Baikal environmentalists are confronting not the interests of the government, but interests of the enterprise owner, a person in the top 100 Forbes list. Read Russians' comments, and see who are they blaming. [] Overall, dudes, try to speak with the people in Russia, rather than reading about them in your national press. You'll see that real Russians are all but not their depictions in the New York Times articles.
  • by OneMadMuppet ( 1329291 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:39PM (#33554060) Homepage
    I live in Ukraine, and often travel to Russia, so my knowledge is first hand. Corruption and bribery is institutionalised in the CIS - it a way of live, and it's not going to change. People can't imagine not bribing officials to get things done. In 2007 bribery in Russia was worth $33bn - more than the GDP of Lebanon or Kenya.
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:59PM (#33554200)
    I've heard of many US school systems being forced to pay for expensive audits without any proof of wrong doing and that the Microsoft license agreement they and everyone else has to accept to use Windows allows this. So it does not matter how careful you are to make sure you are legal, Microsoft and a pal( the government ) can use this and be 100% legal since you agreed to it when you said OK to the license.

    As for the US schools, Microsoft only stopped doing that once a few of them threw away all their Microsoft software and went with GNU/Linux and open source software and then started spreading the word how much money they were saving doing that. Word was spreading, or was it fear, of what Microsoft was doing so lots of education systems were getting interested in GNU/Linux until Microsoft agreed to stop the audits.


Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp