Microsoft to check for pirated copies, frisk PC

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050726.wxmicrosoft0726/BNPrint/International/

The next time you visit the website of Microsoft Corp. to download some software, be prepared to let the world’s biggest software company have a look inside your computer.

In a determined strike to quell the proliferation of counterfeit software, beginning today, Microsoft will require that all customers coming to its website for upgrades and other downloads submit their computers to an electronic frisking.

If you use one of the estimated hundred million PCs running pirated software, don’t expect your upgrade. For Microsoft, the new policy is a stepped-up effort to combat the loss of billions of dollars worth of software sales every year to counterfeiters around the world. But in ramping up efforts to fight piracy, the Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth already finds itself fending off critics over privacy.

“It sets an extremely negative precedent,” Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, a non-profit public-interest research centre in San Diego, said of the company’s initiative. “Microsoft is saying, ‘Before I let you do anything at all, you have to open your computer to us.’ I really object to this.”

The company will scan machines for a variety of information, including product keys or software authorization codes, operating-system version and details on the flow of data between the operating system and other hardware, such as printers.

It is access to this information that particularly upsets the privacy advocates. Ms. Dixon says the only information Microsoft needs to fight piracy is the product key and the operating-system version, and she says that Microsoft will be able to identify users uniquely based on some of the information the company collects.

“They are grabbing more information than they need to deter piracy,” she said.

If Microsoft deems a PC to be carrying contraband code, it won’t allow a user to download Microsoft programs, with the exception of security patches. But the software company — which says that more than one in five U.S. computers runs a counterfeit version of its Windows product — is not just waving a stick. It is also offering a big carrot.

Microsoft said it will give a free copy of its Windows XP to customers who unknowingly bought a counterfeit version of the operating system and who fill out a piracy report, provide proof of purchase and send Microsoft the counterfeit CDs.

Customers who cannot provide proof of purchase but file a piracy report will receive a substantial discount on a legitimate version of the operating system, said Tim Prime, a product manager in the Windows client group at Microsoft Canada Co., a subsidiary of the U.S. company.

Executives at Microsoft reject any suggestions that the move will antagonize customers with privacy concerns.

“Customers want to know whether retailers have sold them genuine software,” Mr. Prime said.

LOL! So the spin on this is that customers need to know if they got a genuine MS operating system from retailers? Hooookay…
To get your free copy you must narc on where you bought the copy of the OS from. I wonder if they’ll get to the street corner in time to catch him? :roll:

Before I get too alarmed over the words of a ‘research centre’ quoted in a non-technical paper, I’d like to find some more information on what specifically it collects. All I’m finding so far though is what MS itself claims it collects (OEM product key, PC Manufacturer, OS version, PID/SIDs, BIOS info (make, version, date), BIOS MD5 Checksum, user locale, system locale).

If it’s just that, then it sounds like they’re trying to ensure that it’s the same Windows install each time you do an update. However, I could see myself doing a reinstall (resetting the SIDs) and a BIOS update in between Windows updates…

If it’s more than that, then burn them at the stake.

I’m all for cutting down on piracy, but this seriously isn’t the right way to do it.

Microsoft said it will give a free copy of its Windows XP to customers who unknowingly bought a counterfeit version of the operating system and who fill out a piracy report, provide proof of purchase and send Microsoft the counterfeit CDs.

Sweet, so if I print my own counterfeit cd and my own counterfeit proof of purchase I can get Microsoft to give me a legit copy of WinXP?! :D

By the way, they’ve been doing this for a while, go to windowsupdate and see if they allow you to do to download updates… I know on one of my computers I couldn’t :oops:

Looks like you have to install a validation app via WU first, though.