Samsung laptops open to hackers after Windows Update disabled

Samsung has disabled Windows Update on some of its laptops, it has been claimed, potentially leaving them open to malware and data leakage.

The issue, which IT Pro has not currently been able to independently verify, was discovered by Patrick Barker, a Microsoft support engineer.

In a blog post, Barker states that a user "was being assisted with a WU (Windows Update) issue, which was going well, aside from the fact that [his] WU kept getting disabled randomly".

"It was figured out eventually after using auditpol.exe and registry security auditing that the program that was responsible for disabling WU was Disable_Windowsupdate.exe, which is part of Samsung's SW Update software," Barker said.

While there has not yet been any official word from Samsung as to why SW Update disabled Windows Update, a customer service representative told Barker in a web chat: "When you enable Windows updates, it will install the Default Drivers for all the hardware no laptop which may or may not work. For example if there is USB 3.0 on laptop, the ports may not work with the installation of updates. So to prevent this, SW Update tool will prevent the Windows updates."

As security researcher Graham Cluley notes, this is a tactic often used by malware to prevent patches and security updates being applied. And, while the motivation is different, the outcome in terms of making the user's computer unsecure - indeed, Barker has urged his readers to report Disable_Windowsupdate.exe as Malware to Microsoft "because that's exactly what it is".

"Why would you ever disable WU in such a fashion (or in general), in a way a generic user cannot control, leaving them vulnerable?" Barker said.

In a statement, Microsoft said: "Windows Update remains a critical component of our security commitment to our customers. We do not recommend disabling or modifying Windows Update in any way as this could expose a customer to increased security risks.

"We are in contact with Samsung to address this issue."

- Update: Samsung has denied Barker's claims, at least in part - read the full story here.

Jane McCallion
Deputy Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's deputy editor, specializing in cloud computing, cyber security, data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Deputy Editor, she held the role of Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialise in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.