June 9, 2006 2:12 PM PDT

Microsoft to ease up on piracy check-ins

Microsoft is cutting the cord on its antipiracy tool.

The software maker this month plans to update the Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications program so that it only checks in with Microsoft once every two weeks, instead of after each boot-up, a company representative said Friday. By year's end, the tool will stop pinging Microsoft altogether, the representative said.

The changes come after a critic likened the antipiracy tool to spyware. He found that the program, designed to validate whether a copy of Windows has been legitimately acquired, checks in with Microsoft on a daily basis. Microsoft did not disclose in any of its documentation that the application would phone home.

Microsoft earlier this week had vowed to better disclose the actions of WGA Notifications. Now the company says it will gradually let go of the program once it is installed on Windows PCs.

"We are changing this feature to only check for a new settings file every 14 days," Microsoft said in a statement on its Web site. "Also, this feature will be disabled when WGA Notifications launches worldwide later this year."

No meaningful data is exchanged during the check-in with Microsoft, the software maker said. Unlike the initial validation, which sends system information to Microsoft, the check-in operation is limited to the download of the new settings file, the company said.

Microsoft launched WGA in September 2004 and has gradually expanded the antipiracy program. It now requires validation before Windows users can download additional Microsoft software, such as Windows Media Player and Windows Defender. Validation is not required for security fixes.

Originally, people had to validate their Windows installation only when downloading additional Microsoft software. Since November last year, however, Microsoft has been pushing out the WGA Notifications tool along with security updates to people in a number of countries, including the U.S.

The first time that users run WGA Validation to check if their Windows version is genuine, the information sent to Microsoft is the Windows XP product key, PC maker, operating system version, PC bios information and the user's local setting and language. Microsoft discloses in the WGA tool license that this information is being sent.

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10 comments

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Business Choice?
Of course they will ease their grasp on piracy check-ins. Thats a
given!

Its clearly a business choice. I don't think Microsoft really cares if
the average Joe Shmoe has a pirated copy of Windows on his
machine just as long as he continues to use it and just as long
as a majority of its consumer and business users still pay for it,
then its fine. From Microsoft's viewpoint they'd like to keep the
herd close not looking elsewhere.

Which also begs the question, what is the exact number of users
running a pirated version of Windows? I'm sure there are quite
alot, thats one of the reasons they're able to maintain their
empire. Because one day that user will pay for it someway or the
other. But If they suddenly include daily mandatory check-ins,
you'll probably see the number of Windows users drop. Who
wants the hassle? Their are other great Operating Systems out
there.

All in all in works out in Microsofts favor either way.
Posted by ServedUp (413 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oi! When will they learn?
If they're going to put software on our computers they have to tell us what it does -- including phoning home.

They shoot themselves in the foot every chance they get.
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They've learned already
...that no matter what outrageous thing they do, people will continue to use Windows. The answer to this, and to the NSA backdoor mentioned by another reader, is perfectly simple: use Linux!

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pclinuxos.com/news.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.pclinuxos.com/news.php</a>
Posted by enwent (9 comments )
Link Flag
They've learned already...
that no matter what outrageous thing they do, people will continue to use Windows. The answer to this, and to the NSA backdoor another reader alluded to, is very simple: use Linux!

Microsoft won't change anything in the way they do business until it hurts them where they care.
Posted by enwent (9 comments )
Link Flag
And The Band Played Beleve Me If You Like
This was put on my systom under the edding of a "Critical Update", Critical for who? Certainly not for me.

If they had not have been found out, for the Sly sods, that they are. Do you seriously think that they would be making this statement today.
Posted by Mr Shaun Warburton (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Here's a permanet work arround
Came across this permanent fix to keep WGA from callin MS...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://zxo.blogspot.com/2006/06/wga-notification-phones-home-during.html" target="_newWindow">http://zxo.blogspot.com/2006/06/wga-notification-phones-home-during.html</a>
Posted by zxocuteboy (45 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Here's a permanet work arround
Came across this permanent fix to keep WGA from callin MS...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://zxo.blogspot.com/2006/06/wga-notification-phones-home-during.html" target="_newWindow">http://zxo.blogspot.com/2006/06/wga-notification-phones-home-during.html</a>
Posted by zxocuteboy (45 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The NSA Monitors Everything We Do Anyway
Windows Genuine Advantage should be the least of our privacy concerns.
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: our privacy concerns
The NSA can't monitor the files on your hard drive, this kind of program could.

But my concern is if there are malware programs out there using this MS phone home "feature" to access people's computers. It happened with the Sony rootkit.

And MS has proven over and over again they aren't the sharpest tool in the security shed.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
I wonder . . .
I wonder how many computers have already been compromised by malware programs that have already latched on to this MS spyware, like they did to the Sony rootkit?

Kind of makes you wish there were operating systems available that allowed anyone to inspect their code for this kind of sneaky stuff.

They could call them, let's think of a descriptive name. . . yeah, they could call it open source!
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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