February 28, 2012 24 Comments-
If you knew Microsoft could remotely remove software from your computer, would you feel safer or more concerned? Inside Microsoft’s new Windows 8 Metro operating system, a “killswitch” could do just that.
The killswitch is an increasingly popular piece of technology that allows companies to remotely remove software from your devices. Apple’s iPhone has one, Google’s Android has one – even the Amazon’s Kindle has a remote-removal for deleting offending books.
And now Microsoft has announced its new Windows 8 operating system will feature the technology. So what does this mean for PC users? Will we now be safer from rogue software? Or will we have to worry about Microsoft’s access to our hard drives? And because the desktop computer is so versatile, will it even have any effect?
Anyone worried about Microsoft having complete access to your computer can rest easy – for now. The company has stated that they can only “kill” programs downloaded from its new Microsoft App Store (that’s our name for it – we’re sure they’ll pick something less Apple-friendly).
Users of Windows 8 will be able to add software in two ways – through the official store or via unsecured sources (the internet, USB sticks, DVDs, etc.). Essentially, it’s the same as how Android mobile phones run.
As a precedent for Windows 8, the Android killswitch has been used a few times without much outcry. It’s successfully removed malware-ridden software that could damage users’ phones and steal their data. On the closed mobile platform, therefore, the technology has been successful so far.
On the other side of the coin, however, are free speech advocates such as Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University’s law school in California, who said: “You have someone who has absolute control over my hard drive in ways I may have never anticipated or consented to. If they use that power wisely, they actually make my life better. We don’t know if they use the power wisely. In fact, we may never know when they use their power at all.”
My big concern, however, is will it work? Most malware I’ve seen comes from e-mails or downloads through a web browser. Would added control over Apps solve this problem? I’m afraid it seems unlikely.
What do you think – could a killswitch make us more secure? And does it need a friendlier name?
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