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Security options limited for pirate copies of Windows

It seems about 65% of my readers still use Windows for whatever reason (work, or games). Microsoft has decided that if your copy of Windows is pirated, you will not have access to Windows Update or any downloads from the microsoft.com Web site, and the only way you will get security updates for the computer is via Automatic Updates.

Microsoft has been testing its new authentication system, called Windows Genuine Advantage, for a few months now, on various Windows-related downloads. Later this year, they will make it mandatory. Windows Genuine Advantage checks the Windows product key to ensure that your copy of Windows is not pirated. If the key is found on a Microsoft-maintained blacklist, you will be denied access to updates and Windows downloads.

This means you won’t be able to click through and receive critical security updates for your computer, nor tools such as Microsoft Anti-Spyware or the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer, nor will you be able to use Windows Update. The only way such a system would be able to receive security updates is via Automatic Updates, and as I mentioned before, neither Windows Update nor Automatic Updates will install all relevant security updates.

Based solely on analysis of server logs, and discounting the occasional spambot network that tries to post comment spam here, I’d say about 10% of my readers have some sort of spyware or malicious software on their computers. How many of these copies are pirated, I cannot say. But those that are will be more likely to remain compromised, thus making no improvement in overall Internet security.

Bruce Schneier, “security guru’ and author of Applied Cryptography, said, “Unpatched Windows systems on the Internet are a security risk to everyone. I understand Microsoft wanting to fight piracy, but reducing the security of its paying customers is not a good way to go about it.’ I couldn’t agree more. Microsoft seems to be fighting security, rather than piracy. It would be easy enough for them to alter Windows Update and the Microsoft web site to serve only security updates to pirate copies, if they chose to do so. They have chosen instead to restrict access, which will make security worse.

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