After diving into the documentation for yesterday’s security patch for Internet Explorer, InfoWorld’s Woody Leonhard found something entirely not security related was included in the patch. Security update KB 3139929 for Internet Explorer also installs another update called KB 3146449. It is the second update that Leonhard takes issue with, because it doesn't appear to be security related.
Instead this new update is an "ad generator" of sorts, which promotes upgrading to Windows 10 in Internet Explorer on Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 PCs. Microsoft's documentation for KB 3146449 states "this update adds functionality to Internet Explorer 11 on some computers that lets users learn about Windows 10 or start an upgrade to Windows 10."
Leonhard comments on this discovery saying:
Many people -- present company included -- feel that putting an ad generator inside a security patch crosses way over the line. In fact, you have to ask yourself if there are any lines any more.
According to his sources the new ad generator works by adding a blue banner across new tabs in Internet Explorer which say “Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 10.” Leonhard spent most of the night trying to trigger the new ad generator to see it in action, but he could not replicate what one of his sources experienced.
Since Windows 10 launched, Microsoft has been more and more aggressively urging users to take advantage of their free upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, recently moving the Windows 10 upgrade to "recommended" status on Windows Update, meaning that if your Windows 7 or 8.x computer is set to receive automatic upgrades, it will automatically upgrade to Windows 10. However, this new ad generator is tied into the yesterday’s entire security patch, so the only way to remove the ad generator path is to uninstall all of KB 3139929, losing the security features of the patch, too.
This patch also has a duplicitous feel to it since a security patch is being used as part of the company’s marketing efforts. Microsoft often states that Windows 10 is the most secure Windows ever, so maybe their reasoning is it is ok to add this ad generator because convincing users to switch to Windows 10 does make them safer. But if this is the case, isn't it best to deliver the message as a conversation with consumers, not forced onto their PC’s under the guise of a security patch? With the free upgrade set to expire on July 28th, 2016 time is running out for Microsoft to get its messaging right if they really want to convince the rest of Windows 7 and 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10.