30 Oct 2002 ib   » (Master)

With the AbiWord fund being on its way back to its rightful owner(s), a question is in order: how powerful is Open Source?

Obviously, some $500+ are by far not the biggest amount ever stolen from PayPal's customers and it's definitely not the only one this month.

On the other hand, we have a well known project, with thousands if not more active supporters, media attention and very powerful commincation outlets - ideal settings to force even the most customer-unfriendly, demeaning company to give in. For PayPal, the $600 are anything but a huge sum, the potential impact, both in loss of clientel and bad media coverage, however is huge.

Would Joe M. Shareware-Windows-Coder have the same impact? I don't believe so. Between its release and the forced removal, some 34.000 people downloaded my "PayPal Insecurities" white paper, but until today, the same holes I described in 2001 exist. In fact, I am almost convinced the AbiWord "heist" was done one of the ways I described back then. I've been called irresponsible for "disclosing" those holes, and still (as in this case) get the calls after each more-or-less public PayPal incident. Fact is, and I keep telling this, those "expolits" were known to thousands of script-kiddies long before I published them in my paper, and both, PayPal and law enforcement knew about the websites dedicated to this kind of fraud.

Now, with AbiWord being the victim, maybe the power of Open Source will make possible what I and hundreds of former victims could not achieve - maybe now they'll think about fixing what's been broken for way too long.

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