An upcoming Windows 7 update (KB971033), due to be distributed to users in a few days time, will install an anti-piracy component that will contact a Microsoft server without your knowledge or permission every 90 days to check whether you are running a version of Windows tagged as pirated. For ever (or until you die and/or scrap your computer).
This nasty new tactic in the war against piracy is not good for a number of reasons. For one thing, the update has the power to start messing with your machine if it thinks you’re running a pirated copy of Windows 7 (never mind that your version has been fine up to that time), so it will turn your wallpaper black, and stick a nag screen up on your computer every so often and refuse to do any more updates.
Bear in mind that you don’t have to be guilty for this to happen, you just need to run afoul of the MS server database, so it *thinks* you’re in the wrong. And of course, who’s to say that eventually Microsoft won’t simply install a ‘Kill Switch’ to shut off those machines that it deems guilty of running pirate Windows?
And in case you’re thinking this is a great protection against piracy, just remember that professional pirates will immediately find a way around the update, just as they do every other such restriction, which means it’s the ‘ordinary joe’ user who’s going to suffer. That’s because the whole system is based around a database of pirated system signatures, e.g. serial numbers that have already been cracked and used for pirate copies.
The real problem with this is that at some point in the future your system signature may be ‘cloned’ by the pirates, or your hard disk may crash and the repairers install a compromised Windows 7 and bang, suddenly the database will think you’re a pirate, and your machine will be under the control of the dumb ox Microsoft machine. Good luck with getting rid of the downgrade of your system too. Ever seen the movie Brazil?
Sigh, yet another example of a classic anti-customer action by the infamous Microsoft. I think I’ll just pop over to Control Panel and switch Windows Update to the manual approval setting for now. More detail can be found here at this Who Owns Your PC? post.
The new Microsoft WAT regime relies upon a series of autonomous “cradle to grave” authentication verification connections to a central and ever-expanding Microsoft piracy signature database, even in the absence of major hardware changes or other significant configuration alterations that might otherwise cause the OS or local applications to query the user for explicit permission to reauthenticate. Microsoft will trigger forced downgrading to non-genuine status if they believe a Windows 7 system is potentially pirated based on their “phone home” checks that will occur at (for now) 90 day intervals during the entire life of Windows 7 on a given PC, even months or years after purchase.