Microsoft Black Screen of Death

Recently, a new buzz phrase has risen up…”Black Screen of Death”. Supposedly Microsoft’s latest updates for November have been causing user’s machines to boot up into blackness with no system tray, side bar, desktop etc. The cause, according to PRevX, is that the registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Shell key

was being edited.

This issue was brought to light by security firm PrevX, who said “millions” of people have been affected. However, actually finding someone who’d experienced one has proved very difficult…even on Twitter and the internet at large. This was strange but it didn’t stop it becoming the #1 story on the BBC site today and starting to become quite a talking topic. Microsoft have just released a statement about this saying:

“We’ve investigated these reports and found that our November Security Updates are not making changes to the system that these reports say are responsible for these issues…Thus, we don’t believe the updates are related to the “black screen” behaviour described in these reports.”

As the information and issues weren’t given directly to Microsoft, they are unable to give a definite answer as to what is causing the problem. However, the important thing is to reassure users that Microsoft Updates are safe and should still be applied regularly as normal.

You can see the full MS statement here:

http://blogs.technet.com/msrc/archive/2009/12/01/reports-of-issues-with-november-security-updates.aspx

Prevxlogo.gif

Thoughts

It is still an odd state of affairs as PrevX are a reputable company with some great technology that has really helped me, and our customers, out of some sticky situations. So it’s unlikely that they’d just make it up but perhaps almost as unlikely that they’d be this wrong about something they’ve publicised so much. On the other hand, it’s even less likely that Microsoft would be wrong! So where does that leave us? To be honest I’m not sure…could it be that they’re both right?

MS note that “Black Screens” can be caused by the “Daonol” family of Malware…but “Black Screens” are known in Windows…as this Wikipedia page shows.

File:EMM386.PNG

A Windows 3.0 BlSOD error message.

Maybe if you have a machine infected with certain Malware AND you do the updates, then the “BlSOD” is triggered?

I honestly don’t know but I’m intrigued to learn more and see how this case is solved!

Update: They’ve Apologised

PrevX have released a statement on their blog confirming Microsoft’s statement that the November updates from MS did NOT cause the Black Screen of Death.

“Having narrowed down a specific trigger for this condition we’ve done quite a bit of testing and re-testing on the recent Windows patches including KB976098 and KB915597 as referred to in our previous blog. Since more specifically narrowing down the cause we have been able to exonerate these patches from being a contributory factor.” (Bold mine)

You can read their full statement here:

http://www.prevx.com/blog/141/Windows-Black-Screen-Root-Cause.html

Thanks to @Jamestutt for letting me know

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