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SUSE's ex-CEO ousted after greenlighting "risky deals"
New details uncovered about the abrupt departure of the Linux company's CEO earlier this year.
December 01, 2023
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On March 22nd of this year, the CEO of SUSE (Melissa di Donato) was unexpectedly announced to no longer be working for the Linux company -- effective that very day.

At the time, it seemed likely (but unconfirmed) that di Donato was fired from her position simply based on her less than stellar performance in the role.

  • She oversaw the IPO of SUSE on the German Stock Exchange, which had results which were "not great" at first.  Then it got worse.
  • As time went on, di Donato oversaw SUSE as it lost close to half of the company's valuation (eventually leading the majority shareholders to seek a de-listing of the company).
  • The CEO was so desperate for positive press, that SUSE paid multiple companies to give her fake awards.  Seriously.  That actually happened.

In the days following di Donato's ousting, confidential sources suggested to The Lunduke Journal that there was more to the story -- that there were significant, non-public reasons for her "immediate departure".  More than simply poor performance and cringe-worthy, self-awards.

Thanks to new reporting from Reuters, we might be gaining new insight into what those reasons might be.

Apparently, under di Donato, the SUSE Board felt it was necessary to create a new "Deal Desk" to research and authorize any sizable corporate deal -- to ensure that it was not a "high risk" deal for SUSE.  Even going so far as to issue a warning, to shareholders, about such potentially risky existing deals.

When a corporate Board establishes a new system to review "risky" deals made under specific leadership... that is a pretty strong indicator that "risky" deals were being made.

Where there's smoke... there's fire.

From the Reuters article:

"SUSE may enter into high-risk or commercially inappropriate deals if it does not exercise effective control over the Sales organization," it said in the report. The company noted that "'Commercial governance' is a newly identified risk this year" and a heatmap in the report ranked the risk as "possible" and its impact on the business as "high".

A warning to shareholders -- along with assurances the the company would be protected from future risky deals by the new "Deals Desk" -- was issued on January 19th.  The SUSE CEO was ousted, without notice, on March 22nd.

So what, exactly, happened in the 63 days between those two events?

It turns out... big, risky deals.  And those new deals did not get reviewed by that "Deal Desk".

"According to four documents reviewed by Reuters and two of the people with knowledge of the situation, Di Donato greenlighted the commercial terms of a roughly $1.4 million sale to South African utility Eskom in late January, bypassing the deal desk's scrutiny in order to speed the process, less than two weeks after SUSE told investors the desk would help to improve controls."

Reuters obtained internal SUSE emails that appear to corroborate this:

"On January 30,  after commercial terms of the Eskom deal had been agreed, a senior SUSE executive said in an email to other company officials that the terms had not been submitted to the deal desk.

 

In late February, an executive told colleagues in an email that the sale had not been scrutinized by the deal desk."

Then, a few weeks later, di Donato was -- without warning -- no longer the CEO of SUSE.  The departure was so abrupt and unplanned... that SUSE was left without a CEO over a month and a half.

At this point, things appear to be in damage control mode for SUSE -- with shareholders voting in November to de-list the company from the stock exchange and take SUSE private.  SUSE no longer being a publicly traded company will significantly reduce the requirements on what sort of information gets reported publicly... including, potentially, about specific, risky deals.

As for Melissa di Donato, she appears to have lawyered up.  When Reuters reached out to di Donato for comment... those comments were handled entirely by her attorneys.

What all of this means for the future of the world's longest running Linux company remains to be seen.

The Lunduke Journal has reached out to sources at SUSE for confirmation regarding some details of this report.

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The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go

Back in July of 2016, I wrote a short article for Network World entitled “The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go."

While the title was certainly viewed as a bit “over the top” and “conspiracy theorist-y”, it was really just a collection of (in my opinion, rather bizarre) facts that – even without any sinister connection – were worth documenting. I am republishing it here, with some additional (increasingly odd) details added at the end (including radio and TV appearances related to this article).

Some of the details relating to the exact permissions and capabilities of the Pokémon application have changed over the last few years… but everything else remains correct, factual, and up to date.

 


 

The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go

With Pokémon Go currently enjoying, what I would call, a wee-bit-o-success, now seems like a good time to talk about a few things people may not know about the world's favorite new smartphone game.

This is not an opinion piece. I am not going to tell you Pokémon Go is bad or that it invades your privacy. I’m merely presenting verifiable facts about the biggest, most talked about game out there.

Let’s start with a little history

Way back in 2001, Keyhole, Inc. was founded by John Hanke (who previously worked in a “foreign affairs” position within the U.S. government). The company was named after the old “eye-in-the-sky” military satellites. One of the key, early backers of Keyhole was a firm called In-Q-Tel.

In-Q-Tel is the venture capital firm of the CIA. Yes, the Central Intelligence Agency. Much of the funding purportedly came from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The NGA handles combat support for the U.S. Department of Defense and provides intelligence to the NSA and CIA, among others.

Keyhole’s noteworthy public product was “Earth.” Renamed to “Google Earth” after Google acquired Keyhole in 2004.

In 2010, Niantic Labs was founded (inside Google) by Keyhole’s founder, John Hanke.

Over the next few years, Niantic created two location-based apps/games. The first was Field Trip, a smartphone application where users walk around and find things. The second was Ingress, a sci-fi-themed game where players walk around and between locations in the real world.

In 2015, Niantic was spun off from Google and became its own company. Then Pokémon Go was developed and launched by Niantic. It’s a game where you walk around in the real world (between locations suggested by the service) while holding your smartphone.

Data the game can access

Let’s move on to what information Pokémon Go has access to, bearing the history of the company in mind as we do.

When you install Pokémon Go on an Android phone, you grant it the following access (not including the ability to make in-app purchases):

Identity

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Contacts

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Location

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  • Approximate location (network-based)

Photos/Media/Files

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  • Read the contents of your USB storage

Storage

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  • Read the contents of your USB storage

Camera

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Other

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  • Control vibration

  • Pair with Bluetooth devices

  • Access Bluetooth settings

  • Full network access

  • Use accounts on the device

  • View network connections

  • Prevent the device from sleeping

Based on the access to your device (and your information), coupled with the design of Pokémon Go, the game should have no problem discerning and storing the following information (just for a start):

  • Where you are

  • Where you were

  • What route you took between those locations

  • When you were at each location

  • How long it took you to get between them

  • What you are looking at right now

  • What you were looking at in the past

  • What you look like

  • What files you have on your device and the entire contents of those files

I’m not going to tell people what they should think of all this.

I’m merely presenting the information. I recommend looking over the list of what data the game has access to, then going back to the beginning of this article and re-reading the history of the company.

Update: April 14th, 2020

In March of 2017, a little less than a year after this article was originally published, WikiLeaks released what they called “Vault 7." A series of documents that was purported to be a large leak of CIA related documents focused heavily on hacking and electronic surveillance.

Among those documents was a list of code names, descriptions, and various details around Android specific exploits.

Of the code names listed… almost a third of them were Pokémon names. Between that and the CIA investment (via In-Q-Tel) in Niantic (the company behind Pokémon Go)… I mean, that's just a heck of a lot more Pokémon than one would expect from the CIA.

One other little tidbit:

The original CEO of In-Q-Tel was a man named Gilman Louie. Louie received multiple awards for his work with In-Q-Tel - including CIA Agency Seal Medallions, Director's Award by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Director of National Intelligence Medallion – which included investing in Keyhole.

Louie now sits on the board of directors of Niantic.

In 2019 alone, Pokémon Go earned $1.4 Billion (USD). As of February 2019, the game had been downloaded over One Billion times.

Update: June 15th, 2024

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Yup.  The video editors for the History Channel spelled my name wrong.  (It's with a Y!  A Y, I say!)

 

Sitting in a park.  Dropping truth bombs about surveillance on the show host, Jimmy Church.

 

Giving the show's host "The Look".
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