Advantage turns into Microsoft disadvantage
Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business
July 11-17 Issue #872, High Tech Office
of Microsoft’s tools in its efforts to help Windows users stay safe and
secure is automatic updates. On its Windows Update website, users are
urged to flip a switch so that their computer will, in future,
automatically download and install what Microsoft refers to as critical
general, it’s a good thing, automatically ensuring your computer is up
to date with its Windows security patches. But what if a so-called
critical update isn’t designed to make your computer more secure but is
only critical to Microsoft’s profit-and-loss column?
apparently the case with Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA).
The software checks whether Windows XP or 2000 users are running a
legitimate copy of the software.
it runs its check, the WGA software collects the Windows serial number,
PC manufacturer, operating system and bios version, and local settings
and language. It then sends this information to Microsoft.
a user’s computer fails the validation check, it’s subject to a barrage
of pop-ups suggesting ways that it can “learn about the benefits of
using genuine Windows software.”
there are a large number of complaints from users claiming that WGA
incorrectly flagged their legitimate copy of Windows as pirated,
subjecting them to the incessant nags. Microsoft has referred to the
current WGA as a “pilot version,” turning us all into unwitting
despite the errors, if that were all it did I would be prepared to
consider this a relatively reasonable step for Microsoft to take to
help combat piracy of its software products. But there’s more. WGA was
listed as a critical update that was automatically downloaded and
installed by many users, even though it didn’t fix a security hole.
Moreover, even if your computer passes its validation test, WGA “phones
home” to the Microsoft mother ship every day, behaviour that the
company never bothered to mention to users until it was detailed in the
denies that WGA is spyware; others are not so sure. According to
Ziff-Davis Microsoft Watch columnist Mary Jo Foley, “if users are not
properly notified about exactly what software a vendor installs on
their systems and/or about the function and purpose of that software,
it sure sounds like spyware.”
in 2002, Microsoft announced a “trustworthy computer initiative” that
was going to be central to the company’s future software development
It’s hard to imagine that Windows Genuine
Advantage will make Microsoft seem more trustworthy in the eyes of its