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Software Licenses and compression (was: Multiple AV Vendors ignoring tar.gz archives)
From: bkfsec <bkfsec () sdf lonestar org>
Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2005 14:58:07 -0500

James Eaton-Lee wrote:

Add to this the fact that implementing archive support in an antivirus
package isn't as simple as it might seem; although bz2 is released under
a BSD license, gzip isn't - it's GPL, and therefore any antivirus vendor
would have to write their gzip code totally from scratch.

Now this is a non-sequitor. It's a non-sequitor for two reasons: 1) It's irrelivent and 2) It's wrong.

First, it's irrelivent because if this is a percieved weakness of an antivirus package (and I can see how someone can see it as undesirable under certain conditions, though not all conditions) then its implementation isn't the concern of the reporter. We know that it can be done and, if it's of high enough value, it should be done -- irregardless of whether they get the code from a third party or write it themselves.

Second, it's wrong for a couple of reasons. Yes, they would not be able to take GNU gzip and implant the code into a proprietary application. However, that does not bar them from utilizing and distributing GNU Gzip with their application. If they were to wish to use GNU Gzip, there are ways that they could engineer that into their product without causing licensing issues. They could simply use gzip/tar to gunzip/untar the package as a stream and pass that into their preprocessor for analysis in their sandbox. That would require no cross-polination of the licenses and would leave the third party software intact. These kinds of arrangements are actually quite frequent in the world of software design.

Further, it's not like the gzip compression algorithm of some kind of guarded secret proprietary protocol. It's a standard protocol and there are a number of proprietary implementations that could be licensed for use in proprietary programs. In either case, including third-party software into a security product can be a gambit and, as such, that code has to be heavily audited in order to be included into the software suite. Or, at least, it should be heavily audited. Anyway, they wouldn't be able to just take bzip2 and place it directly into the source of the AV system either. Interfaces have to be crafted and tested, in order to be consistent. You also have to take into account differences in the programming environment for the AV/Compression scheme and optimizational concerns. In the end, your point in trying to differentiate the GNU GPL from the BSD license here is completely and totally moot. It does nothing but predicate misunderstandings concerning the GNU GPL and further cloud this potential security issue.

               -Barry


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