Monday, January 10, 2005

SecurityFocus HOME Columnists: Microsoft Anti-Spyware?

This would be comic genius, if he didn't seem to be serious:

What if they start charging a subscription fee for the updates? It only makes sense. This is a lucrative market and a potential recurring revenue stream worth billions of dollars, which might be too sweet to pass up. The anti-virus companies in comparison are already making billions of dollars by charging for subscriptions for their own weekly updates. Why shouldn't Microsoft jump on the bandwagon? A subscription model seems to be the holy grail of software licensing, as we've seen from so many products already.

  • Step 1: create security holes that can be exploited

  • Step 2: create subscription-based paid service to uninstall stuff that exploits said holes

  • Step 3: Profit

It's funny, in a surreal kind of way. Apparently, Microsoft is going to take Windows' greatest weakness and turn it into a revenue stream. Yay for that (not).

Actually, here's how I see this shaping up. Having downloaded and installed said software, I noticed that MS asks if you want to validate your copy of windows. They also mention that you may be required to do so in the future to use this or other Microsoft software.

That tidbit says a lot about their future plans (to me, at least). If you're running an illegal copy, you can expect not to be able to benefit from this program, but why stop there? How hard would it be to tuck a validation requirement into windows update? I think what Microsoft has stumbled upon here is a good way to nip piracy in the bud. You want protection? You want updates? You better be running a copy of (insert product here) that you paid for.

Additionally, now Microsoft has a way to forcibly uninstall software that they don't want you using, or in slightly less paranoid terms, they can scare people into only using MS-sanctioned products by casting the ones they don't like as Spyware.

WARNING: Microsoft AntiSpyware has detected spyware on your PC. Do you want to remove it now? [yes] [no] [ignore always]

Maybe that's an extreme example, and then again, maybe not (WinPcap and WinVNC were both flagged as malicious software on my initial scan, as was Remote Administrator). It works well enough to be adopted by many, and IMHO, that's just what Microsoft is betting on.

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