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Protestware on the Rise: Why Developers Are Sabotaging Their Own Code


'Protestware' and 'Open Source' on keyboard keys

In March 2022, the popular npm project node-ipc began wiping the machines of suspected Russian and Belarusian developers.

Credit: Getty Images

If combating attacks of legitimate software on open source registries weren't challenging enough, app makers are increasingly experiencing the consequences of software self-sabotage. A developer can, on a whim, do whatever they want with their open source code. Or, as seen by a growing trend this year, developers deliberately sabotaging their own software libraries as a means of protest — turning software into "protestware."

Developers sabotage their own libraries sometimes to speak out against big corporations, but more recently to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Open source developers are discovering new and creative avenues that no longer limit them to implementing new features for their projects, but to actively express their views on larger social matters by modifying their projects for a cause. And, unlike proprietary code that has to function in line with a paying customer's expectations, most open source licenses are quite permissive — both for the consumer and the developer — offering their code with licenses that offer no guarantees as to what a developer is not supposed to and will never do with their code, making protestware a gray area for defenders.

From TechCrunch
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