Forced Xbox patch kills Linux hack

— 5:41 AM on September 15, 2003

There's an interesting story over at The Inquirer suggesting that Microsoft is applying patches and bug fixes to Internet-connected Xbox game consoles without explicit user consent. If an Xbox console is properly connected to the Internet and any of its Xbox Live capabilities are accessed, the console automatically downloads an update patch. Short of unplugging the console, there's apparently no way to stop the update process.

Did a dangerous vulnerability that's exposing Xbox users' credit card numbers and other personal information prompt Microsoft to push this patch to consoles? No. Could unpatched consoles have been exploited my malicious hackers to turn net-connected Xbox consoles into spam relay or DOS attack servers? I doubt it. So far, it looks like the patch only fixes bugs in the Xbox's Dashboard software that have allowed users to run Linux on the console. What a relief, um, yeah.

I'm sure that the Xbox's EULA gives Microsoft permission to force patches onto Xbox consoles, but I'm still not thrilled with the idea. What irks me about the update is that users apparently can't opt-out of the patch unless, of course, they unplug their consoles from the Internet. Having Microsoft automatically patch Xbox consoles or even versions of Windows isn't such a bad idea in my mind, but only if users are able to opt-out of those automatic updates.

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