If you have a Samsung laptop, beware: Samsung has apparently disabled the Windows Update feature on many of its laptops, leaving you vulnerable to any security holes which Windows updates are supposed to patch.
Patrick Barker, a Microsoft VP, first posted yesterday that, while trying to figure out a problem with Windows Update (WU) on a user's Samsung laptop, he discovered the problem wasn't an accident, but the desired end result of a Samsung software update:
...the program that was responsible for disabling WU was Disable_Windowsupdate.exe, which is part of Samsung's SW Update software.
SW Update is your typical OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] updating software that will update your Samsung drivers, the bloatware that came on your Samsung machine, etc. The only difference between other OEM updating software is, Samsung's disables WU.
Installing a secret app
Not only did Samsung secretly install an app to disable Windows Update, it even gave that name to the app. Worse yet, even if the user notices this and deliberately re-enables Windows Update, SW Update and Disable_Windowsupdate.exe will disable it again, the next time your computer reboots.
TheNextWeb news, which first brought Barker's blog post to wider notice, said that “According to a support representative, it’s there to stop the computer from automatically downloading drivers from Windows Update that could be incompatible with the system or cause features to break. … Samsung’s software update service doesn’t actually ship with the application installed, it’s silently downloaded in the background at a later time from a non-HTTP server and installed without asking the user.”
But Gizmodo used less diplomatic phrasing to summarize Samsung's intent (original vowel replaced with anti-obscenity asterisk): “Windows updates … patch critical security flaws with alarming regularity. So if a manufacturer decided to disable Windows Update to favor its own crappy bloatware, that would be incredibly f*cked. Oh hey there, Samsung!”
Leaving users vulnerable
Not only does disabling Windows updates leave users vulnerable to whatever security flaws those updates were supposed to fix, but the actual act of (secretly) installing the disabling app also leaves users at risk, as TheNextWeb explains:
Samsung delivering the app via a non-secure protocol also means that if the server were to be compromised, it could allow an attacker to quietly install apps without you ever knowing about it.
Samsung has not yet offered public comment on the matter. Meanwhile, if you have a Samsung computer, you might want to check and see if Windows Update still works.