Create a Linux distribution. It can cost you twenty years in jail

Create a Linux distribution

Charge against an American student for supporting ISIS using free software.

Some days ago I told them the successful case of the transition of an Indian newspaper from the use of proprietary software to free software. Today I have to write about another completely different, but nevertheless, demonstrates the versatility of open source.

A twenty year old college student face charges for supporting an organization considered terrorist. One of the forms of that support was create a Linux distribution based on Gentoo to be used in the ISIS organization's dissemination campaign. In case of be found guilty must serve up to twenty years from prison.

Without getting into political discussions, the fact that he is going to jail is a shame. From the reading of the judicial statement of the FBI agent in charge of the case, it appears that the young man would be a valuable addition to any project open source.

Nor would the special agent be a bad acquisition as a diffuser of free software. This is how you explain what Gentoo is

Gentoo Linux is a free operating system for computers that happens to be a highly configurable version of Linux, and "Linux" is a free operating system for computers that provides a wide range of functionality.

Why do you create a Linux distribution and why can you end up in prison?

Allow me to introduce you to the protagonists of this curious story of the use of free software. On one side we have Special Agent Phillip Viggiani who works in the FBI since 2016. On the other side we have Thomas Osadzinski, a student 20-year-old who had no better idea than share your ideas on how to spread ISIS messages with undercover agents of the FBI.

ISIS is the acronym in English for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It is an insurgent paramilitary organization guided by a heterodox interpretation of a branch of Islam.

Our friend Viggiani masterfully defines what a pro-ISIS media organization is

A Pro ISIS media organization is an unofficial pro-ISIS media organization that creates pro-ISIS media content to be distributed online including on social media.

Osadzinski's first collaboration with a pro-ISIS media organization was create a python script. With this script the student could download, classify and categorize content of the official accounts of the group en automatically. He was also in charge of distribute it on your own social media accounts. Not satisfied with that, The videos were classified by resolution. Those with a slower connection (or a bad data plan) could easily find the lighter ones.

A curious fact is that the FBI agent explains to the judge simple concepts such as what a social network is as if His Honor had arrived yesterday from Mars, but nowhere does he define the concept of script.

Osadzinski studied several computer-related subjects at university, including Python for programmers, Information systems, Applied networks, and security. Also Computer Science 1 and 2.

Osadzinski's Linux distribution

In March this year, the young man communicated on a social network with an undercover FBI agent whom he believed to be an ISIS sympathizer. There he announced:

I am going to start a valuable new project to develop a custom version of Gentoo Linux especially for ISIS supporters. It will work on any computer and will be light, fast and secure.

Later he sent a link to a group chat and explained to him that he will post the updates there so that only trusted brothers see them. (And undercover FBI agents).

The defendant explained that the new distribution it would only serve to browse social networks. He assured that:

The less things there are in an operating system, the harder it is to hack.

Unfortunately, although Osadzinski explained to his contacts the characteristics of the new operating system, Viggiani nor deemed it necessary to include them in the indictment. Since, at least for the next twenty years, it is difficult for him to appear in Distrowatch, we can only speculate.

However, in case you are planning to do something bad on your computer, and you do not want traces to remain, I leave you with this recommendation from Osadzinski that the FBI shares with us:

If you have files that you cannot encrypt, download the Bleachbit program. When you delete a file in Windows it goes to the recycle bin. But even when you delete it from the trash, it can still be recovered. Bleachbit escre the position of the disk with zeros which makes it impossible to retrieve them.

bleachbit is open source and available for Windows, Linux and Mac


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  1.   l1ch said

    Indian (nationality), not Hindu, not all Indians follow Hinduism (religion) ...

    1.    Diego German Gonzalez said

      I correct. Thanks

  2.   Male said

    Is an Islamist terrorist group that slaughters and burns people alive in front of a television camera an "insurgent group"? Does it seem good to you that in one way or another you can collaborate to expand the ideology of one of the most bloodthirsty currents of current terrorism? Do you know what ISIS is? It seems good to me that they put 20 years for collaboration with terrorist groups.

    1.    Diego German Gonzalez said

      I would like readers to stop looking for hidden meanings in my articles. I am not Nostradamus nor the author of the book of Revelation.

      I carefully limited the use of qualifying adjectives to prevent the article from being filled with comments that have nothing to do in a technology blog.

      When I say that it seems a shame that he is going to prison, it is because he is a 20-year-old person with enormous talent who if he had used it for something more constructive he would have done a lot of good.

  3.   Daniel said

    Well, unfortunately I think the young man knew, as we all know, what ISIS is about and the risks to which you expose yourself. The rest comes by itself. Greetings, good article.

    1.    Daniel said

      in that case you would have specified, your comment leads to think that you dismiss the actions of the subject.

  4.   01101001b said

    Good article. Just 2 little things:
    1) "but nowhere does it define the concept of script"
    I suppose that not xq «script» in English is a word of colloquial use («script» of movie is a «script» x example), and not purely «technical» as happens to those who know the word in the computer field x or do not speak English.
    2) the possible sentence of 20 years is not for having made a linux, in this case it is for having cooperated with ISIS. It is akin to cdo someone faces charges x knowingly hosting a wanted criminal.

    1.    Diego German Gonzalez said

      I tell you what I said on Twitter. I went to the trouble of reading the indictment instead of making a copypaste of the Zdnet article. I deserve to put a clickbait.
      Regarding the script it can be, but it takes the trouble to define social network.