Windows 10 Cloud hacked to run Win32 programs

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 9, 2017
Updated • Jul 5, 2017
Windows, Windows 10

That did not take long! Windows 10 Cloud has not been revealed officially yet, but someone managed to hack the operating system already to run legacy Win32 programs on it.

Windows 10 Cloud leaked earlier this month, and first impressions revealed that it looked like a revival of Microsoft's -- failed -- Windows RT operating system.

Windows RT was released alongside Windows 8 as a low cost solution. Microsoft's marketing back then did a bad job at highlighting to customers that Windows RT would not run Win32 programs-

Windows 10 Cloud looked to be in the same boat initially when the first ISO of it leaked on the Internet. It was revealed then however that users can upgrade the operating system to Windows 10 Pro, and that Windows 10 Cloud may be free.

windows cloud chrome
via Longhorn

Note: Microsoft has not confirmed any of this yet. It is possible that things may change along the way.

The leaked version of Windows 10 Cloud supports Windows Store apps and legacy Win32 programs that Microsoft whitelisted. Any Win32 program not on that list, and there are several that ship with Windows 10 Cloud that don't, won't run by default but will throw an error message instead:

The app you're trying to install isn't designed for Windows Cloud. Windows Cloud helps protect your PC by running on Windows Store apps.

Still want to install the app? See How.

The last sentence of the notification that users see when they try to run programs that are not whitelisted provides them with an option to upgrade the operating system to Windows 10 Pro.

This highlights one of the major difference to Windows RT, which did not ship with such an option. The upgrade option, and the fact that Windows 10 Cloud runs on x86 processors indicated strongly that Microsoft must have implemented a software restriction that prevents legacy Win32 programs from running on the operating system.

Jürgen Born suspects that Device Guard is used in Windows 10 Cloud to allow or block applications and programs based on signatures.

A Twitter user by the name of Longhorn posted a screenshot yesterday that showed Google Chrome and the Desktop App Converter running on a Windows 10 Cloud machine.

He managed to hack the restrictions of Windows 10 Cloud to run Google Chrome and the Desktop App Converter on a Windows 10 Cloud device.

The user did not reveal how it was done.

Information about the protection and how to circumvent it were published on the user's blog.

At the end, Windows Cloud is nothing more or less than a Professional variant with UMCI enforced.

At the end, Windows Cloud is nothing more or less than a Professional variant with UMCI enforced.

As such, its compatibility with existing Windows software* is only and solely prevented by having UMCI enabled and active.

While command, powershell, regedit and other core Windows features that give users control over the operating system are blocked, Linux Bash is not apparently. This allowed him to enable test signing of programs, and run a handful of other commands to get the legacy Win32 programs to run on Windows 10 Cloud

Provided that the screenshot is not fake, it shows that the built-in protection is not as protective as Microsoft would hope it to be. Microsoft has not announced Windows Cloud officially yet. Considering that it is still in development, it can be that Bash support will be dropped in future builds.

Since the methods used to get Chrome and the Desktop App Converter to run were not revealed, we don't know how complex of an operation the hack is.

Now You: Would you get Windows 10 Cloud if it was free?

Windows 10 Cloud hacked to run Win32 programs
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Windows 10 Cloud hacked to run Win32 programs
That did not take long! Windows 10 Cloud has not been revealed officially yet, but someone managed to hack the operating system already to run legacy Win32 programs on it.
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  1. v1adimir said on December 30, 2018 at 5:31 am

    Yes!! Thank you (all)! :)

  2. T said on February 10, 2017 at 11:28 am

    that’s not a hack… all it is doing is putting a uwp wrapper around a win32 app… this is how developers are supposed to put apps like chrome or firefox into the store.

  3. john said on February 9, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    > Windows Cloud is nothing more or less than a Professional variant with UMCI enforced.

    Microsoft learned nothing from the antitrust case. It’s also their transitional operating system aimed at replacing their other consumer operating systems with their tightly-controlled, surveillance and data-gathering efforts. The only question is whether Cloud 10 (or it’s future variants) will be available freely down the line.

  4. LD said on February 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Collusion pays off for a while but when the cabal has a dominant player, the decisions are always going to go in their favor. The dominant player being Microsoft, played the OEMs and component manufacturers. They can not negotiate their way out, because dictators do not negotiate. When Microsoft became a competitor as well as a partner, the OEMs were so weakened they could not retaliate or walk away. Enterprises, businesses, governments and consumers are all held hostage to the whims of a single vendor.

    I would not get Windows Cloud if it were free. Being a MS beta tester for W10 is not my job or what I expect from being a computer owner/user. Mandatory PUPs, tracking that can not be disabled and Windows Store apps (UWP, or old x86) do not make for the user experience that I am used to.

    1. hirobo said on February 9, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      Nobody has to be a beta tester. I have disabled Windows 10 forced updates & telemetry via a simple auto-looping cmd script. My Windows 10 build on this tablet I’m typing from had been set in stone ever since… I have never once been a “beta tester”, the build I have always been on seems to be un-problematic so far.

  5. hirobo said on February 9, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I would buy a cheap ARM tablet with W10 Cloud if it could run Win32 apps when hacked. In fact I am typing this on a cheap Atom tablet running Win10 Pro. I use the tablet mainly for legacy win32 software (have never once visited the Windows Store) and would not have bought it otherwise.

  6. Yuliya said on February 9, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    You could pay me and I wouldn’t use it. For all I care anyone is free to use Enterprise SKUs for 180 days then reinstall it, so this.. thing.. even for free makes no sense to me.

  7. A or B, not C. said on February 9, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    This sounds very similar to how M$ had purposely deprecated Win 7 Pro into the cheapest available version as Win 7 Starter;

    Starter 7 – This is the bare-bones, 32-bit only version of Windows 7 intended for users in developing countries, to serve the most basic computing needs. No Aero (transparent glass like borders on windows). no wallpaper or visual layout customization, 2 GB memory limit, no mobile center, no media center.. Depending on the type of video card you have in your notebook (age) it may not be able to support Aero. Good only if you run everything in a web browser.
    Starter will not be available in retail stores, and will only be offered pre-installed on new PCs by Microsoft OEMs.
    In the case of Win 10 Cloud, M$ added the requirement of signed certificates for the installation of apps/programs(the Device Guard feature.?). So, M$ only sign up UWP apps for installation on Win 10 Cloud, n purposely did not sign up desktop/Win32 programs. Seems like a despicable n deplorable act by M$, to employ “dirty tactics” to force future Win 10 Cloud users to use UWP apps n Windows Store. M$ may even extend this to all Win 10 users eventually, eg in 2018.

    This is similar to how UEFI Secure Boot works, ie only signed OS could be installed n booted. Many less well-known Linux distros could not be installed on UEFI cptrs unless Secure Boot has been disabled. Canonical has to pay about US$70 per year to Verisign(= M$’s business partner) in order for Ubuntu to be signed-in n allowed to be installed n booted on UEFI cptrs with Secure Boot enabled.
    ……. When launching Win 8 in 2012, M$ “forced” the OEMs to agree to implement UEFI n Secure Boot in their new cptrs. Luckily, M$ left it to the OEMs whether to give the option to cptr buyers to disable Secure Boot in BIOS setting. Will M$ one day “force” the OEMs to not give this option.?

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