It’s kind of technical, but interesting if you care about the inner
workings of the machine you are using to read this post.
Microsoft Vista has built in an elaborate system to prevent
copying of protected digital content. In so doing, Microsoft
has imposted stringent requirements on hardware manufacturers.
They also have created a system that will have built-in
performance penalties. The digital content will have to be
encrypted and decrypted many times, as it passes from the DVD drive, to
the CPU, the sound card, the video card. All that adds
overhead to the various processors. It also makes systems
much more expensive to design, build, and upgrade.
What is more disturbing, as the author points out, is that the system
deliberately degrades its performance if it detects something out of
line. The author speculates about the potential for malware.
He refers to all the little security checks as “grenade
pins,” meaning that if one is triggered, the system can become unusable:
With the number of easily-accessible grenade pins
that Vista’s content protection provides, any piece of malware that
decides to pull a few of them will cause considerable damage. The
homeland security implications of this seem quite serious, since a
tiny, easily-hidden piece of malware would be enough to render a
machine unusable, while the very nature of Vista’s content protection
would make it almost impossible to determine why the denial-of-service
So if he is right, this built-in content protection system will be a
target-rich environment for virus writers. It’s too early to
tell, of course, but it is something to be concerned about.