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Windows DRM is the 'longest suicide note in history'

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Copy-protection features in Windows Vista make the operating system more bloated while giving few benefits to end users, according to a new security paper.

Peter Gutmann, a medical imaging specialist, argues in the paper that Microsoft's cumbersome approach to DRM is doomed to fail and will only succeed in pushing users towards buying faster hardware to cope with degraded performance, effectively imposing collateral damage on the rest of the industry.

Many of the criticisms Gutmann makes will be familiar to those who have followed the development of Vista's copyright protection features however his hard-hitting prose style and warning that the Vista Content Protection specs could "very well constitute the longest suicide note in history" has reinvigorated the debate.

Gutmann argues, for example, that in order lock down High Definition content, Vista limits the number of connectivity options to users. 'Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called "premium content", typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it's not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server)," Gutmann writes in an abstract to his paper here.

Microsoft is risking annoying its customer base and users in a bid to corner the market for home distribution of premium content.

Gutmann argues that hackers will find it just as easy to bypass the content protection mechanisms of Vista as they have with other versions of the OS.

These ultimately doomed efforts will lead to a more expensive and less functional operating system for users, he argues. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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