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1/28/2005
02:17 PM
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Gartner: Microsoft Anti-Piracy Plan Raises Security Risks

Microsoft's new anti-piracy measures mean some Windows users won't get software updates. Experts predict hackers will have a field day attacking unprotected PCs.

Microsoft's announced plans to fight software piracy by requiring Windows users to prove they have a legitimate copy will help the developer but will in the long run create more vulnerable systems that hackers can exploit, a research firm said Friday.

In a recommendation posted online, Gartner analysts Neil MacDonald, Michael Silver, and Dion Wiggins urged enterprises to verify that Microsoft's Genuine Windows Advantage program -- as Microsoft dubs its validation effort -- is both safe and consistent with existing security practices, especially those that rely on Windows Update to install security patches.

Microsoft has said that Windows Update will be closed off to those who do not validate that their copy of Windows is legitimate sometime in the middle of this year.

The trio of analysts also recommended that businesses continue to beef up their patching processes as WGA is implemented, because, they wrote, "[it] will inevitably result in more unpatched Windows systems available on the Internet" because it "will limit the availability of critical security patches."

Their take seconds that of other security analysts, who worry that by locking out some users from updates, Microsoft will create a large pool of vulnerable systems that could, in turn, spread worms and other malicious code to other unpatched machines.

Even legitimate users, wrote the three analysts, may end up with wide-open machines if they don't trust Windows' Automatic Update, which will be the only way to receive critical security fixes after mid-2005 on a system that's not been validated.

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