Windows 10 ‘Kill Switch’ Can Identify and Block All Illegal Downloads

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It’s been called the ultimate ‘kill switch’.  But will Microsoft ‘turn on’ Windows 10 capabilities to snuff out illegally-obtained (and shared) downloads?

Major content owners have largely focused their anti-piracy efforts on ISPs and Google.  But it turns out that operating systems have just as much power when it comes to controlling content.

They’re just not using those powers.

Enter Windows 10, which has been bubbling as an anti-piracy enforcer since its release in 2015.  Initially, paranoia emerged following terms in Microsoft’s Windows 10 service agreement that enabled the identification and blocking of pirated content.  The supposedly ‘Big Brother’ language boiled down to a line of boilerplate legalese, though it eventually prompted some torrent trackers to outright block Windows 10 users.

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Things have calmed down since that point, and users moved on.  But it now turns out that Microsoft was actually filing an anti-piracy patent back in 2015, right around the release of Windows 10.  We just didn’t know it at the time.

Now, two years later, that patent has been approved.  And it specifically details a capability to detect and block pirated content, not to mention report users.

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Here’s what the patent abstract describes.

“Objects in a shared storage system can be marked as including prohibited content.  Incidents that result in objects being so marked can be stored in an incident history associated with a user responsible for those objects.  

“The incident history can be processed to identify repeat offenders and modify access privileges of those users.

“However, when objects are shared by one user with another user, prohibited content is blocked from being shared, while the remainder of the shared objects can be accessed by the other user.”

Here’s a complete copy of the patent, which is now public.

The USPTO officially awarded the patent on April 4th, 2017.  Of course, that award happened with very little fanfare (and almost no media coverage).

So what happens next?  At this stage, it’s unclear whether Windows 10 will activate the anti-piracy capabilities.  One plausible suggestion is that Microsoft will only employ protection and tracking on specific software targets.  That would include pirated copies of its own software, while stopping short of wide-scale music, film, TV, and gaming piracy.

Other operating systems, specifically from Apple and Google, are unlikely to participate.  As for Google, its longstanding policy on piracy has been to only respond to piracy complaints from content owners.  Specifically, Google has largely chosen to only respond to DMCA takedown complaints, while allowing preventative blocking on YouTube.

But the DMCA is mostly employed against public dissemination of copyright works.  And major OS owners are unlikely to police the private collections and sharing of their users.  Simply stated, playing ‘OS cop’ makes little business sense.

Currently, Microsoft has not issued any statements or guidance on the matter.  That said, Microsoft is targeting its OS and hardware to creatives, a tricky game when it comes to piracy.

More details as they emerge.  Stay tuned.

23 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Nice initiative — OSX needs a similar feature.

  2. Versus

    Excellent. Every OS should have similar technology installed.

  3. Anon

    Disgusting. This sounds like the first step towards eventually controlling what we can and cannot have on our own computers. I do not torrent, but I’ll be damned if some “Big Brother” bullshit software reports me to the PC-Police because it thinks I am in possession of a “prohibited” file. Blessed be the fruit.

  4. Sly

    Well, I was looking for an excuse to hop over to Linux anyways!

  5. chris9465

    If I believed this would work the way it’s intended too, I’d applaud it. Unfortunately this is Microsoft, and anything, security related, will not work as advertised. Its not a maybe, its not a could, its a will effect your computer negatively.

    Microsoft security is the equivalent of using a 1inch piece of scotch tape to secure your home. This is the same DRM crap they tried on the Xbox one, we see how well that worked.

  6. Maria Schneider

    You wrote: “Specifically, Google has largely chosen to only respond to DMCA takedown complaints, while allowing preventative blocking on YouTube.” This is not true. Many many independent musician/creator/copyright-holders are not allowed to proactively “block” their works on YouTube. That’s the case with me and countless others. Unless we go through a third-party that monetizes our pirated content (where that third-party and YouTube siphon off most the money), many of us are left out of the system to simply protect the value of our work.

  7. ANON

    Sounds like it would be useful in a business intranet environment.

  8. Bill P

    It is only triggered for “shared access” storage accounts, such as onedrive or if you have file sharing enabled on your system.

  9. Jimmy Henderson

    Clear case of FUD here.

    “Objects in a shared storage system” obviously refers to OneDrive, Microsoft’s version of Dropbox/Google Drive/Amazon Cloud Drive/, not your laptop’s SSD.

    Every cloud storage vendor flags pirated content similarly. Most won’t instantly ban you for putting a copy of Avatar on their servers, but they do stop you from sharing it with other users so they aren’t used as a distribution mechanism for pirated content.

    • Hermano

      the author lacks the mental capacity to understand the patent.

      he is trolling the naive and gullible into thinking this will prevent windows user from downloading warez from torrents etc.. utter bull.

    • MC

      This. How can you write an article like this, quote the patent, and then completely ignore the “shared storage” part of the essential core of what this is about?


    • anon

      yeah, the patent states ‘in service provider storage systems’, this has nothing to do with windows OS

  10. Anonymous

    As others have commented, I’m fairly certain the scope is limited to certain software (likely Microsoft products) stored on certain cloud storage services (likely OneDrive). While something like the article describes does sound appealing from a copyright owner’s standpoint, and would certainly be more effective than current anti-piracy measures, I can’t help but think there would be legitimate privacy concerns. Plus, pirates could simply downgrade to Windows 7 or 8, or if they’re currently on 7 or 8, simply not upgrade. Or, use Linux to view the content.

  11. Justin

    As Microsoft sucks anyways, switch to Linux. Problem solved. But I do not dislike these kind of moves as it inspires the other end to come up with better and more clever ways to share said “illegal” content and materials. I think of these dumb moves as painful growth spurts. They will never be able to control the flow of information though. All of their attempts are futile.

  12. Anonymous

    kids….. why should a torrents server use this at all?

    it s something the storage space provider has to implement.

    this is just a BS article by some morons who cant read or understand a patent… or maybe just clickbait for the mentaly weak.

  13. Anonymous

    It has always bothered me when companies I purchase from assume I’m a thief. I don’t steal, but tend to avoid stores that insist on bag searches and other overt signs of distrust.

    I’ve been a Linux user since 1998. It is easier now than ever before. I remain surprised by how many people stick with Windows.

  14. Ken

    Such BS. No thinking computer user would allow MS to inject that into their PC. Also of course it legally qualifies as spyware in thatg it monitors a computer’s use then communicates information back to MS. Kind of like a cookie. Also who determines what is prohibited? MS, some religious group, a government? This is a BS article. Call it fake news. Even if MS did somehow bundle this into an update, writing a script to kill it wouldn’t be that hard. And any moron, even one over 40 could download or paste copy the script to block MS from running anything on the consumer’s computer..

  15. Ministry of Truth

    I suspect a very good case for Prior Art can be made against this patent based upon George Orwell’s 1984 which was published in 1949.

    “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well” George Orwell, 1984 p.65.

    Ministry of Truth
    Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Department.

  16. Really?

    So Micosoft first has to check all files??? WTF made for NSA

    Linux will handle it^^

  17. Anonymous

    One day on Microsoft website:
    Windows 10 Kill Switch is released: Say goodbye to ilegal downloads.

    The day after on warez and torrent websites:
    Download Windows 10 Kill Switch Cracked: Ignore Windows 10 Kill Switch Anti-piracy policies.
    Download Windows 10 Kill Switch Removal Tool: Kick Microsoft’s ass and keep downloading whatever you want.
    Download Windows 10 Downloader Edition: Install Windows without Windows 10 Kill Switch.

    Piracy will never die.