Aug 29

Microsoft intensifies data collection on Windows 7 and 8 systems (ghacks, Aug 26, 2015):

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May 20

China “Sanctions” US, Bans Use Of Windows 8 On Government Computers (ZeroHedge, May 20, 2014):

Considering the epic production and sales flop that Windows 8 has been, one probably does not need an actual sales ban from preventing anyone sane from using it let alone buying it, however in yet another symbolic step, banning its government employees from using the latest Windows operating system is precisely what China did in retaliation to yesterday’s DOJ announcement it was charging five PLA members with hacking offenses against the US. According to Reuters, this latest blow to Microsoft came when the Central Government Procurement Center issued the ban as part of a notice on the use of energy-saving products. So Windows 8 lead to global warming? Who knew…

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Feb 25

The Kill Switch Comes to the PC (Bloomberg/Businessweek, Feb. 16, 2012):

Janne Kytömäki, a Finnish software developer, was cruising Google’s (GOOG) Android Market for smartphone apps last year when he noticed something strange. Dozens of best-selling applications suddenly listed the same wrong publisher. It was as if Stephen King’s name had vanished from the covers of his books, replaced by an unknown author. Kytömäki realized the culprit was a piece of malware that was spreading quickly, and he posted his findings online.

Google responded swiftly. It flipped a little-known kill switch, reaching into more than 250,000 infected Android smartphones and forcibly removing the malicious code. “It was sort of unreal, watching something like that unfold,” says Kytömäki, who makes dice simulator apps. Kill switches are a standard part of most smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. Google, Apple (AAPL), and Amazon (AMZN) all have the ability to reach into devices to delete illicit content or edit code without users’ permission. It’s a powerful way to stop threats that spread quickly, but it’s also a privacy and security land mine.

With the rollout of the Windows 8 operating system expected later this year, millions of desktop and laptop PCs will get kill switches for the first time. Microsoft (MSFT) hasn’t spoken publicly about its reasons for including this capability in Windows 8 beyond a cryptic warning that it might be compelled to use it for legal or security reasons. The feature was publicized in a widely cited Computerworld article in December when Microsoft posted the terms of use for its new application store, a feature in Windows 8 that will allow users to download software from a Microsoft-controlled portal. Windows smartphones, like those of its competitors, have included kill switches for several years, though software deletion “is a last resort, and it’s uncommon,” says Todd Biggs, director of product management for Windows Phone Marketplace.

Microsoft declined to answer questions about the kill switch in Windows 8 other than to say it will only be able to remove or change applications downloaded through the new app store. Any software loaded from a flash drive, DVD, or directly from the Web will remain outside Microsoft’s control. Still, the kill switch is a tool that could help Microsoft prevent mass malware infections. “For most users, the ability to remotely remove apps is a good thing,” says Charlie Miller, a researcher with the security company Accuvant.

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Dec 09

Microsoft Can Remotely Kill Purchased Apps (PCMag, Dec. 8, 2011):

Microsoft’s terms of service for its Windows Store allows the company to remotely “kill” or remove access to a user’s apps for security or legal reasons, it said.

As noted by Computerworld, Microsoft’s terms of service for the Windows store will technically allow the company to cut off access to apps, even if the user purchased them.

Microsoft unveiled an app store for Windows 8 apps, on Tuesday. The key ingredients of the Windows Store are easy app discovery from within and without the online marketplace, built-in app trials with quick upgrade paths, support for both x86 and ARM-based hardware, and a flexible business model, Microsoft’s Antoine Leblond said then.

Microsoft addresses the possibility that it might remove apps under the heading, “Can Microsoft remove apps or data from my device?”

“We may change or discontinue certain apps or content offered in the Windows Store at any time, for any reason,” the company says. “Sometimes, we do so to respond to legal or contractual requirements. In cases where your security is at risk, or where we’re required to do so for legal reasons, you may not be able to run apps or access content that you previously acquired or purchased a license for.

“In cases where we remove a paid app from your Windows 8 Beta device not at your direction, we may refund to you the amount you paid for the license,” Microsoft added. “Some apps may also stop working if you update or change your Windows 8 Beta device, or if you attempt to use those apps on a Windows 8 Beta device with different features or processor type. You are responsible for backing up the data that you store in apps that you acquire via the Windows Store, including content you upload using those apps. If the Windows Store, an app, or any content is changed or discontinued, your data could be deleted or you may not be able to retrieve data you have stored. We have no obligation to return data to you. If sign in information or other data is stored with an expiration date, we may also delete the data as of that date.”

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