Microsoft's WGA program tests Windows installations to determine whether they have been legally purchased. As implemented in some countries, like China, WGA turns the user's desktop background black when it detects an illegal copy of Windows. The goal is to encourage users to pay for legitimate software.
According to a BSA-IDC study, 82% of PC software in China is pirated.
The so-called "black screen of death" -- which doesn't impede computer function like Microsoft's "blue screen of death" -- has prompted an outcry against what Chinese users of unauthorized software see as Microsoft's heavy-handed tactics.
Beijing lawyer Dong Zhengwei, lashed out at Microsoft, calling it the "biggest hacker in China with its intrusion into users' computer systems without their agreement or any judicial authority," according to China Daily.
The lesser hackers, meanwhile, are trying to exploit user outrage for their own gain.
"The Micropoint Anti-Virus Company has posted a warning stating that hackers have wasted no time in taking advantage of this fear," explains Scott Henderson, who follows Chinese hackers on his blog, The Dark Visitor. "While users are furiously searching the Internet for a solution to this problem, the hackers are busy posting links to downloads that promise a solution."
These solutions turn out to be rogue anti-malware applications that install malware rather than remove it, Henderson says.
It has become standard operating procedure for hackers to use interest in current events to trick victims into doing something that leads to a compromised computer. The technique is known as social engineering.
It's not immediately clear whether the ammunition that Microsoft has provided to hackers through its actions will drive users of illegal versions of Windows toward safer software. But the company probably won't mind if Chinese hackers help prove its point that genuine Windows software is less risky than the alternative.