Samsung found itself in hot water this week after a Microsoft researcher discovered the company was disabling automatic security updates for its Windows PCs. The company says it's not as bad as it sounds, but few are buying Samsung's explanation.
Microsoft's Patrick Barker found a program called Disable_Windowsupdate.exe buried in Samsung's own software update tool. The program blocks Windows Update from running automatically. If Samsung PC owners want their device updated with the latest security patches, they have to do so manually.
This made Microsoft angry.
"Windows Update remains a critical component of our security commitment to our customers," Microsoft shot back. "We do not recommend disabling or modifying Windows Update in any way as this could expose a customer to increased security risks. We are in contact with Samsung to address this issue."
Samsung PC owners can turn Windows Update back on, but Samsung's drivers will disable it again the next time the device is rebooted.
Barker checked in with Samsung, which explained to him, "When you enable Windows updates, it will install the Default Drivers for all the hardware on the laptop which may or may not work. For example if there is USB 3.0 on laptop, the ports may not work with the installation of updates. So to prevent this, SW Update tool will prevent the Windows updates."
To put in another way, Samsung is saying Microsoft's drivers don't necessarily run well on some of Samsung's laptop components. In response, Samsung decided to shut them off. The company thinks its own software patches are more important than ones issued by Microsoft. The company flatly denies any sort of wrongdoing.
"It is not true that we are blocking a Windows 8.1 operating system update on our computers. As part of our commitment to consumer satisfaction, we are providing our users with the option to choose if and when they want to update the Windows software on their products. We take product security very seriously and we encourage any Samsung customer with product questions or concerns to contact us directly," said the company in a statement issued to media.
[Read more about Windows 10 security.]
Barker says he is flummoxed by the response. "I don't understand what this statement is implying," wrote Barker. "I never implied it specifically blocked a 'Windows 8.1 OS system update,' just that their SW Update software is preventing Windows Update from automatically installing updates."
Is Samsung trying to deflect any further inquiries into this matter? It would appear so based on its responses so far.
Samsung device owners can still force their computers to install critical patches, but having those updates run automatically is the recommended way of doing things. One missed patch could be the difference between a hacked computer and a safe one. If you have a Samsung PC you might do well to check that the latest patches are on board.Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio