Windows Vista: Intercontinental Ballistic Software

Woody Leonhard notes that:

with Windows Vista and potentially Office 2007 that changes – the activation system will occasionally check if the product key is still ‘legal’. If Microsoft decides that the product key for your software has been stolen and misused then your copy of Vista or possibly Office 2007 can be disabled remotely (after a warning period).

He’s worried about piracy. I.e. what happens if somebody else “borrows” your key, so Microsoft cuts you off through no fault of your own. I’m wondering what happens when the U.S. Government leans on Microsoft to cut off the keys to the latest alleged seeker of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Imagine if all your computers shut off just as the bombs start to fall. Indeed, maybe the bombs don’t have to fall at all. Maybe it’s enough for the U.S. to turn off the computers and wait for the opposing side to cave.

Frankly it’s hard to imagine why any sensible foreign government would allow Vista to be installed on any PC in their country. If I were France, China, Iran, Canada, Venezuela, or anybody else, I think I’d be looking at a country-wide migration to Linux.

Some nations are starting to worry about this. China is one of the most likely targets of a U.S.-Microsoft cyber-attack, and they’re probably further along than anyone in preparing to defend against it. However, I don’t think they’re ready yet. They have not taken the logical step of flat-out banning the installation of foreign-controlled closed source software.

Britain is rethinking a deal to buy U.S. fighter planes if they don’t get the source code. So far I don’t think they’ve thought about Windows, but they should. What would be worse? All their fighters being grounded, or every PC in the British Isles shutting down at once?

Of course this attack isn’t just a threat to foreign countries. It’s a threat to anyone the U.S. Government or Microsoft doesn’t like. I figure it’s a tossup whether this power will be used first to go after child pornographers or copyright pirates. It probably depends on who fires first, private industry or the government.

Either way, look for this attack to be rapidly expanded to tax cheats, deadbeat dads, drug dealers, individual citzens who support unpopular^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hterrorist organizations, drunk drivers, individuals criticizing corporations, lawyers who defend these folks, and anyone else the government or a big company don’t like.

I used to think Richard Stallman was paranoid. Now I’m beginning to think he wasn’t paranoid enough.

3 Responses to “Windows Vista: Intercontinental Ballistic Software”

  1. bugfox blog » Blog Archive » What happens if your product key is stolen? - Office Watch Says:

    […] Elliotte Rusty Harold suggests a cool new use of this feature: the U.S. government could lean on Microsoft to shut down all the computers in an unfriendly country, or maybe just the computers of individuals that the govenment doesn’t like. Of course that’s just paranoid and couldn’t possibly happen. […]

  2. Modulator Says:

    Here’s One Good Reason Not to Buy Window’s Vista

    Microsoft can deactivate your Vista installation remotely. As Elliotte says:He’s worried about piracy. I.e. what happens if somebody else “borrows” your key, so Microsoft cuts you off through no fault of your own. I’m wondering what happens whe…

  3. Michael Buckley Says:

    I second your pointer to The Right To Read. At the time I thought it showed the general direction the RIAA/MPAA/Gov’t/MS/Apple/Intel/etc. wanted to go, but had no idea how quickly things would progress. It is just a matter of time until the first criminal conviction for sharing a book.

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