Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mafia Threats: MS/VeriSign "Protection" Racket

VeriSign is the domain registrar for .com & .net (and have tried to (illegally?) squeeze as much money out of that as they could), but they are also the main culprits in a sinister ploy: That of the "Designed for Windows" program.

It's the classical mafia "protection" racket: We will protect you from us if you pay us money. If you do not pay us money, we will cause you serious trouble.*

And yes, Moyo Go Studio is feeling the heat from this scheme too. Microsoft and VeriSign have a deal: Developers must purchase an extortionately costly VeriSign number, and put this in their programs. If they don't, Microsoft will tell their users that - SECURITY ALERT! - your software is not "designed for Windows" and on top of that untrustworthy. And ask whether the user is really "willing to take the risk of data loss, identity theft and having a zombie child porn server on their system: [Yes (install scary software] [No (tell ╬╝ISV to buy VeriSign number])". Like, if a VeriSign number somehow guarantees secure software. VeriSign is involved in a few other questionable practices as well.

One wonders where they get the guts - first they introduce a plethora of buffer overflow exploits, and when they've generated enough anger and indignation, they blame other people's software and demand cash from them. If not, you'll be deemed a "threat", and your users will be told not to trust your "non-compliant" software. Noncompliant as in not having paid your VeriSign bill. I do not know how much money VeriSign funnels to Microsoft.

The future looks bleak: Rumors are that Windows Vista makes it much harder to get away with not paying the hefty VeriSign fee. Windows Vista is reported to suck bigtime (and might contibute greatly to Microsoft's eventual, seemingly inevitable demise), so I recommend not bothering with it at all.

*A similar racket is operated by "professional organizations" for plumbers, electric engineering shops etc. For 1500 USD a year, a plumber buys the right to display a door sticker with "member of the guild of professional plumbers". Part of the proceeds go towards making consumers aware that without the sticker, the plumber is "untrustworthy". The rest of the loot is invested in a 170-foot yacht for the guy who thought of it first.