The NSA contacted Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux/GNU, to ask about injecting surreptitious backdoors into the popular open-source operating system, his father has disclosed to the European Parliament.
In yet another embarrassing revelation of the NSA’s astonishing malpractice, Nils Torvalds — Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Finland and more famously the father of Linus Torvalds — disclosed in a European Parliament hearing this week that the intelligence agency had contacted his son with regards to the injection of clandestine “backdoors” into the widely-used Linux/GNU operating system.
Christian Engström, MEP for the Swedish Pirate Party, explained to the inquiry panel that in open-source development, such backdoors cannot exist without being reviewed on multiple levels by developers around the world as the entirety of the system source code is freely available for all to read and examine. He continued to put to Microsoft’s representative on the panel that ‘In Microsoft’s systems, this possibility is absent, since the source code is secret to outsiders.’
This week’s disclosure came in Nils Torvalds response to Engström’s questioning:
“When my oldest son [Linus Torvalds] was asked the same question: “Has he been approached by the NSA about backdoors?” he said “No”, but at the same time he nodded. Then he was sort of in the legal free. He had given the right answer, [but] everybody understood that the NSA had approached him.”
Torvalds didn’t share his son’s response to the NSA, but it would be unfair to assume anything other than that he explained how even if he wanted to implement the kind of backdoors that the agency had in mind, it would be impractical and effectively impossible in the open-source environment that Linux is developed in as any changes are always reviewed by a host of developers.
The entire LIBE Committee Inquiry on Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens has been uploaded to YouTube and can be watched below: