Microsoft anti-piracy move may increase security threat

Microsoft anti-piracy move may increase security threat

Summary: Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) programme, which is designed to help identify pirate copies of Windows, will increase the security problems faced by enterprises, according to research group Gartner.In an effort to crack down on counterfeit software, Microsoft will require customers to verify that their copies of Windows are genuine before downloading security patches.

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Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) programme, which is designed to help identify pirate copies of Windows, will increase the security problems faced by enterprises, according to research group Gartner.

In an effort to crack down on counterfeit software, Microsoft will require customers to verify that their copies of Windows are genuine before downloading security patches. The company has been testing a tool that can check whether a particular version of Windows is legitimate and from the middle of 2005 the process will be mandatory in all countries for Windows updates and add-on tools.

However, Gartner is warning IT administrators that WGA will result in more unpatched Windows systems and therefore an increased threat from compromised PCs - especially for companies that do not patch regularly.

According to Gartner analysts, "the WGA program will inevitably result in more unpatched Windows systems available on the Internet, so you must continue to improve your patching processes to protect your systems against worms and other malicious-code attacks spread by unpatched systems".

Nitin Acharekar, industry manager of security & services at Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, said that WGA is a positive move by Microsoft because more companies will have genuine updated copies of Windows. However, he sees the increased threat described by Gartner as "theoretical" rather than likely.

"Lots of compromised and zombie PCs exist now -- there are lots of illegal copies of Windows out there and not many consumers are savvy enough to keep their computers up to date. Theoretically, there is more of a threat but practically I don't think it will have much of an impact because not many consumers patch their computers and so the risk already exists," said Acharekar.

Topics: Piracy, Government, Microsoft, Security, Windows

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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3 comments
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  • Microsoft has every right to do whatever they want with their software.

    Users do not _own_ that software and therefore can share in no freedoms with the software.

    What would be really cool is if all warez versions of Microsoft's products stopped working. Now.

    Then let's see all the little hypocrites run to open source alternatives...
    anonymous
  • "Microsoft has every right to do whatever they want with their software", absolutley, but do they also have the right to make the internet a more dangerous place, simply because they may be limiting the ability of everyone to download and install security updates and patches, thus ****isting in the global spread of these things?

    Its just like MS to try this kind of thing.

    Just look at the new Microsoft Anti Spyware program. Its in beta at the moment and available for free, but when it becomes a paid service, people will be paying for a program that fixes up holes in MS's own operating system that shouldn't have been there in the first place.
    How the hell can they sell such a thing and have a clear conscience after its their badly written OS thats responsible for the spread of these bugs in the first place?
    zybch
  • Has microsoft thought about this for one minute?

    People without legit copies, many of whom will be families with more than one PC or users who don't know any better. Then windows starts falling over and crashing from spyware. All the talk from them will not be "oooh we should patch" because they won't think that, thay'll just think "#$##@@$@#$@ windows" and windows reputation will go down the toilet.

    I just hope the powers that be in the open source arena are ready to step in and say "Hey look at our free stable and secure operating system."
    anonymous