Theater of the absurdFujitsu asks terrorists whether they would use its software for WMD

Published 24 September 2009

Fujitsu runs a patching site for Sun Microsystems’ Solaris Unix variant; the company asks end-users to fill out a survey before downloading the latest patch, and the first question asks whether the customer would be using the patch to build WMD; even if you admit to building a nuclear bomb, Fujitsu allows you to download the patch; either Fujitsu targets really honest terrorists, or the company wants to use the information in its advertising (as in: “5% of our customers are terrorists who use our software to build weapons of mass destruction”)

There is honor among thieves, so perhaps there is honor among terrorists. Or so Fujitsu hopes. Fujitsu is a long-time distributor of Sun Microsystems’ Solaris Unix variant, which runs on its PrimePower and Sparc Enterprise lines of Sparc boxes. As part of its Solaris patching site, Fujitsu has a brief survey that it asks end users to take. The survey instructs: “Before starting any download, please fill in all radio buttons (YES/NO) below.” The first question: “[Will] you  use this downloaded contents for the development of weapons of mass destruction?”

It very helpfully gives a working definition of what constitutes WMDs, which as far as Fujitsu is concerned are “nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons and toxic weapons, devices spreading bio-chemicals for military use, rockets with at least 300km of range, and unmanned aircraft of at least 300km of range.”

Timothy Prickett Morgan writes that Fujitsu also wants to know whether its Solaris shops are engaged in nuclear fuel or nuclear reactor research, or the development of micro-organisms, toxins, rockets, unmanned aircraft, and other aerospace research. There is another Yes/No question about the use of Solaris for battle tanks, offensive space weapons, warships, helicopters, and the like — also including night goggles.

Now, how does Fujitsu ensure that people getting patches are not lying about what they do? Export rules in the United States and Japan prohibit the export of technology used for these purposes, which the Fujitsu patch site warns you if you answer yes to any of those questions — but then the Fujitsu site allows you to log in and get the patches just the same, provided you have a customer ID and password, even if you answer yes.