Boing Boing is reporting that the servers at MS that provide the backend for the Windows Genuine Advantage malware that they insist on forcing people to install as a critical update to Windows systems, are down. The result is that any XP or Vista machines asking MS if they are genuine will assume that they’re not.
On Vista, perhaps the most appropriately named version of Windows ever (looks pretty, adds nothing new), there are reports that this will cause it to revert to a more basic mode, disabling many of the important features (like the transparency & visual effects on the desktop – see what I mean about the name).
Initial reports said that the servers might be down until Tuesday, though there is now a posting on an MS forum stating that they are working on getting them back ASAP, and that machines should not be going into a reduced functionality state.
What are the lessons to be learned here? For consumers:
- Don’t buy from a company that treats you as a thief from the outset. There are plenty of viable alternatives out there now that will not be subject to this kind of failure. Use FreeBSD, Linux or even Mac OS. This is another area where Apple leads the way in the commercial space I think: rather than trying to force malware on its users (by calling it an Advantage), they chose to create a family pack license that allows people to upgrade multiple machines in one household for a much reduced price. A smart approach.
- Don’t believe it when a company tells you that they’re adding DRM to protect you. This WGA malware is not there to protect you; it is there to monitor you and report back to MS.
For Microsoft there might be some lessons here too:
- Don’t run critical systems on Windows. It is not a good enough OS to run critical servers. It is almost good enough to run word processing software, though even that is doubtful.
- Don’t use DRM to protect software like this. The only people not impacted by this server failing are those running the illegal copies where the feature has been disabled already. Once again, DRM hurts the honest paying customers, and has no impact on the problem.