Microsoft blackballs pirates from Security Essentials

Free security software installs only on legitimate Windows

Microsoft will block users running counterfeit copies of Windows from installing the free Security Essentials antivirus software, the head of the company's anti-piracy group said yesterday.

Security Essentials, which launched early Tuesday , is basic anti-virus and anti-spyware software that Microsoft touts as suitable for users who can't, or won't, pay for security.

"During installation, you ll be asked to validate Windows running on your PC to make sure that it s genuine," said Alex Kochis, director of Microsoft's Genuine Windows team, in a post to a company blog Tuesday. Genuine Windows is the umbrella label for several of the company's anti-piracy technologies, including product activation and the often-criticized validation and notification components, which regularly determine whether the copy of Windows running on a PC is legitimate.

Part of the Security Essentials' installation process requires that users validate Windows. "Microsoft Security Essentials is available to customers running a genuine and properly licensed copy of Windows," the first installation dialog box reads. PCs that fail the validation check will display a second dialog that provides a link to the section of Microsoft's site where users can purchase - or in some cases receive a free copy - of Windows.

Although Microsoft blocks pirates from downloading other free software it offers, it regularly makes major exceptions. Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), which Microsoft has billed as its most secure browser to date, can be downloaded and installed on a counterfeit copy of Windows, for example. And Microsoft lets people running bogus copies Windows obtain security patches via Windows Update.

On-again, off-again debates about the wisdom of blocking security-oriented downloads like patches or defensive software have centered around the argument that Microsoft should protect all users, including pirates, since hijacked PCs threaten the entire Windows ecosystem. In this case, though, one analyst isn't buying that line.

"I can't see any justification for making Microsoft give away Security Essentials [to counterfeit Windows users]," said John Pescatore, Gartner's primary security analyst. "Those people have many other choices, including free.& There are plenty of alternatives to Security Essentials," he said, adding that that makes a difference. Windows patches, on the other hand, aren't available from anyone but Microsoft.

"It's like when you buy a car. If you buy a Ford, the company should have to fix the car when there's a recall, whether you bought the car from them, or bought it used from someone else," said Pescatore. "But if Ford said they were going to give all current owners free satellite radio, does that mean they have to give it away to everyone, including people who bought it used or even who bought Chevys?"

Security Essentials can be downloaded for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 from the Microsoft Web site.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoft's Security Essentials

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?