Microsoft vs. Spyware

OK, I realise that whining about Microsoft is about as passé as whining about taxation, and about as likely to have any effect, but some similarities struck me the other day.

I was cleaning up some spyware or something from some of my websites and I thought it would be a good idea to make sure that all my windows machines had the Microsoft patch for the WMF vulnerability. Start windows update running, click through the defaults, ignore the 792 page EULA and download what Microsoft classifies as “Critical Updates”.

One of the things people hate most about spyware, adware and their associated inbred toolbars and whatnots is that they use deceptive means to fool people into installing them. They either outright lie, or they provide one attractive feature and embed permission to do whatever else in an incomprehensible 792 page EULA.

Some large software companies behave in a remarkably similar way. What I requested from Microsoft, and what it was implied I was getting, was critical security updates. What I got instead was something called “Windows Genuine Advantage”. Now Bill and I clearly have different ideas about what is critical. To me, something that as far as I can tell just allows Microsoft to check if a computer is running a legal copy of windows is not critical to me. In fact it is not even desirable. The only reason I installed it was because the information provided was a mixture of misleading and too long to read in detail.

In the medium and long term, I think it works to everybody’s disadvantage. The last thing the world needs are more unpatched windows machines connected to the internet, regardless of whether they are unpatched because of owner inaction, or because Microsoft decided to stop providing patches to machines with serial numbers it dislikes, the end effect is the same. More zombie machines wasting bandwidth and probing others because they have been infiltrated through well known vulnerabilities.

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