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Vista’s New and Worrying Defenses

Apr 14, 20062 mins
Intellectual Property

Perhaps the most worrying thing in the forthcoming release of Vista (for those of you living under a rock that is the name of the next version of Windows) is the new anti-piracy features that will be deeply embedded within the core of the operating system.

Apparently the anti-piracy features require detection of the PC’s anti-piracy measures (such as support for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection or HDCP) and “proof” of the legality of each copy of Vista (similar to XP’s current authorization system). If the tests aren’t satisfied then Vista will disable various multimedia and operational features to make piracy more difficult (as opposed to “stopping” piracy because as we all know anti-piracy measures have a Darwinian effect – they breed better pirates). The reason that this aspect of Vista is worrying is because it is hard to believe that theses tests won’t have bugs, will surely make it much harder to use Vista particularly for new users, and will definitely make it harder for IT groups to integrate Vista with their existing management systems. According to a article a product manager for Microsoft’s digital media division named Marcus Matthias said: “The table is already set. We can come in and eat at the buffet, or we can stand outside and wash cars.” Allow me to translate that: “We see a lot of money-making potential and we’ll be damned if we’re not going to grab as much money as we can even if it makes Vista bloated, harder to use, harder to manage, and tramples all over consumer’s rights in the process.” Thinking about these deeply embedded defenses makes me wonder whether what we’re going to see is something that is a great platform for a root kit. Just imagine a hacker figuring out how to get “inside” this subsystem and using it as a platform for launching malware attacks. But the biggest concern of all: What software will Microsoft allow to work alongside these defenses? Imagine a nice little deal with the RIAA …


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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