Microsoft earlier this week clarified that all versions of Windows, both legitimate and illegitimate, receive security updates – and that policy will carry over to Windows 7.
“There seems to be a myth that Microsoft limits security updates to genuine Windows users,” wrote Microsoft’s Paul Cooke, who works in Windows Client Enterprise Security. “Let me be clear: all security updates go to all users.”
“Not only do all security updates go to all users' systems, but non-genuine Windows systems are able to install service packs, update rollups, and important reliability and application compatibility updates,” Cooke continued in the blog entry. “In addition, the users of non-genuine Windows systems can also upgrade a lot of the other software on their computer. For example Internet Explorer 8 has numerous security- oriented features and improvements, and it is available to all users.”
That’s not to say that non-genuine copies of Windows are allowed to run completely free. Certain updates and software may be blocked at Microsoft’s discretion, such as value-adding updates and non-security-related software.
Bootlegged copies of Windows Vista can still access updates through the Windows Update control panel. A non-genuine Windows XP system can only access updates through Automatic Updates, but not through the update websites.
Microsoft said that it won’t be changing this policy for Windows 7, meaning that pirates will still be as protected as legit users. While this might seem a little strange for any software company to provide software support to pirates, keeping even illegal copies patched up is in the interest of the entire computing ecosystem.
While it may be mildly entertaining to laugh at illegal installations of Windows fall at the hands of a computer worm, an epidemic is still an epidemic – especially if it affects legitimate users who simply haven’t applied the current patches or security software.