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Microsoft alters WGA after spyware claims

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 10 Jun 2006 7:57 User comments (53)

Microsoft alters WGA after spyware claims Microsoft has altered how the Windows Genuine Advantage software behaves after accusations that the program was "phoning home" very frequently turned out to be true. At a system boot, the WGA software would exchange data with Microsoft's servers, even if the installation of Windows XP had been confirmed as legitimate by the software at an earlier date.
Lauren Weinstein, co founder of People for Internet Responsibility, posted his findings on a blog and compared the tool's activity to that of spyware. "I fail to see where Microsoft has a 'need to know' for this data after a system's validity has already been established," Weinstein wrote. "I'll leave it to the spyware experts to make a formal determination as to whether this behavior actually qualifies the tool as spyware."

Windows Genuine Advantage has two main tasks, the first of which is "validation". The tool will check your XP installation and determine whether it is legitimate or pirated. If it is legit, then the second task will not go ahead. If the installation is pirated, then the second task, which is "notifications", will begin. Users running a pirate XP with WGA installed will start to receive messages with links to Microsoft's site to see the benefits of using legit software.

According to Microsoft, the validation tool does in fact send data back to Microsoft, but that the notifications tool is limited to the download of a new settings file which will enable Microsoft to update how often reminders are displayed and to disable the WGA program, if necessary. "No additional information is sent to Microsoft," said a company spokesperson. "Other than standard server log information, no information is collected."

Microsoft has changed the WGA tool to phone home only once every 2 weeks instead of every time the computer is booted. After Weinstein's post was discovered, he was contacted by two executives for a friendly chat. "We can argue about whether or not the tool's behavior is really spyware," Weinstein wrote. "I believe that the [Microsoft] officials I spoke to agree with my assertion that additional clarity and a more 'in your face' aspect to these notifications in such cases would be highly desirable."

Source:
Sci-Tech Today

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53 user comments

110.6.2006 10:01

In a way I kinda agree with this phoning home, in a way I kinda don't.

210.6.2006 12:06

I paid for my computer... I paid for my copy of Windows... I pay for my net connection... don´t I have the right to know when Microsoft is using my properties?

310.6.2006 12:30

I agree tefarko. By misleading the end user, the WGA software behaves just like spyware. The way that I kinda thought it worked was that it verifed that your copy of Windows was vaild, wrote some value in the registry that future programs downloaded from M$ would check, then go dormant. Thats the way I would have written the software.

410.6.2006 16:23

Poor poor MS and the RIAA tryign tog et by hacking into peoples computers...I guess they dont make enough money *L*

510.6.2006 20:16
aabbccdd
Inactive

screw M$ iam going Linux next reformat!!!!!

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 14 Jun 2006 @ 0:30

610.6.2006 20:30

And Linux is not as insanely fickle and annoying as XP? At least I can run more hardware and software on XP,UNTIL soemone can emulate DX and other Winonly crap I am forced to be a slave of m$..least I dont have to give them money to :P

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 11 Jun 2006 @ 13:12

711.6.2006 12:31

They are crossing the line. One thing is to verify, another is to invade...

811.6.2006 12:45

Is it ture thier goign to stop support for XP and SP1? I refuse to touch SP2 its just to f'ing buggy......

911.6.2006 13:30
jziman
Inactive

Just taking after the RIAA. Humm. I have the beta of Vista. Now i just wonder how much privacy i have. Probaly none. They may just be watching me post right now.

1011.6.2006 13:48

jziman hows it runnign for you? run into any Audio/Video locks?

1111.6.2006 14:57
janrocks
Inactive

I'm really pleased i was linked to this article. The settings file download answers some of the mysteries of the last few weeks.. Anybody know what it's called?

1211.6.2006 18:30

WOW....so they are phoning home once every 2 weeks. But undoubtedly, they are just saving up all of the detail and sending it all at once. So they still haven't made any real change. Time to grab one of the firewalls out there that stop net access even through the boot process; I try to run linux for the most part, but Windows is an unfortunate evil that still has to be used at times.

1311.6.2006 18:41

I just got that new WGA bug,but blackice seems to be keeping it in check..hehehehe

1411.6.2006 22:40

pain in the rear all these updates... not talking m$ either - lol...

1512.6.2006 5:21

they need to alter halo for the PC because it has a spyware when you install it on your computer as well as this problem.

1612.6.2006 5:30

HALO? man M$ love it... crazy...

1713.6.2006 5:43

Halo doesnt have spyware you F'n idiot. Wow counterstrike does this everytime you connect to Steam aswell, checking a products serial key has been going on for ages everytime you use or connect to the net with it. But as soon as big bad microsoft do it there suddenly collecting personal information or something sinister, jesus christ get a grip and learn the facts.

1813.6.2006 6:18

AIM2Shame STEAM is a bit more than use a key check it montiors levels,cheats,mods and awhole lot of other crap,it feels like it goes abit beyond MP statistic gathering for me thus I wont touch steam with a ten foot poll. The ID key checking setup is the best I have seen simple small and fast,no fuss no muss. Steam is Spyware like plus if its not installed right all steam games are broken...uuhgg not to mention the auto updates it loves.

1913.6.2006 8:26
dolphin2
Inactive

@AIM2Shame No need for name calling!

2013.6.2006 13:38
janrocks
Inactive

I thought this was going to be an interesting thread about Windoze spyware and disfunction download updates...apparently it's going to be another silly game-fanboy rant instead. Never mind.. I'll retire to Ozzu for a serious discussion of these MS nasties and come back to this when I get some answers. I was hoping people were going to report the other weird things that have been happening after the counterfiet software warning arrives...Ahh well..back to the jungle that is the console forums.. :)

2113.6.2006 13:49

janrocks its not that bad,any thread is goign to have afew fany posts. I wodner if anyone has built remvoe tools and other WGA fixs ..mmm


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2213.6.2006 14:37
dolphin2
Inactive

I saw one in a newsgroup a few days ago. Problem is that MS keeps updating/changing the things. You would need an almost daily update. And then still no guarentee it would work all the time.


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2313.6.2006 15:40

dolphin2 that or remove all WGA regy entries and delted/repalce and lock all WGA files hehehehehehe


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2413.6.2006 16:03
janrocks
Inactive

I thought I'd managed that with my hacked version.. but alas.. all it did was screw it up and not tell me it had updated.. bah!. And because I kinda hacked it at random..spur of the moment thing really..I can't remember exactly what I did, and I don't think I'm going to try again. I'm after a few surefire ways to tell if somebody is spinning porkies on the phone about a legit windows problem.. or is it counterfiet..

2513.6.2006 16:36

janrocks I have auto update set tp custom,and I deney WGA every time I see it now,its only poped up once after I removed it from the regy.


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2613.6.2006 17:51
dolphin2
Inactive

@janrocks You could have them download and run this small (534KB) tool from MS. Have them tell you the results and you would know if it was a legal copy or not. This is a direct link to the download. Download WGADiag2.exe http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=52012


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2713.6.2006 22:12
dolphin2
Inactive

You could also ask if they have a blue star icon in the system tray.


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2814.6.2006 5:32

@aim2lame oh shame sorry.... why does mccafee try to remove one when I install one hmmm??? I'm not using a crack at all.I have the original copy and not using a crack from gamecopyworld.Yeah I know how M$ does inventory on everyones computer.So if your so freakin smart then you can tell me.

2914.6.2006 15:10

Let's face it, if microsoft doesn't spy on you, then its Big Brother, if it's not big brother or microsoft, then its a hacker trying to steal your personal identity, and if it's not any of the three, it just a matter of time before it becomes one.

3014.6.2006 15:13

@ Zippy Its fairly simple to block WGA, just disable it and presto! No more annoying WGA.

3114.6.2006 16:00
dolphin2
Inactive

If you disable WGA, then no more updates only critical ones.

3215.6.2006 3:35
lyrik
Inactive

I went to bed with the PC on heavy nightly tasks. In the morning to day 16/6-2006, looking at my screen i found the following Windows XP message: "Windows has restarted the machine becourse an update requested it!" Can you believe it!? It not only spies on me. They restarte my machine as often as they like!! This is outrageous! Never, never install their next system "Windows Vista" It will go through all the programmes on the machine and delete any program that it does not find authorized to be there. Without asking!! They will tell you that it is for your own benefit. They just protected you from the hazard of potential spyware and virusses. "So you see, it was to your own benefit that we deleted that unauthorized version of Adobe Photoshop." That is their stated intention. Written on Suse Linux 10.1 The future will be playstations fo games, and Linux for daily use. XP until the Linux platform has provided the video editing tools i need. I hope.;-) Greets Lyrik

3315.6.2006 10:23

dolphin2 Uumm I cant even get to the webpage Updates sicne they changed the old java script work around. Auto update is fine by me

3416.6.2006 2:10

I have used Linux and XP, linux for me thanks (except i cant play the games I wanna play) Revemp '98 I say it was far better

3516.6.2006 9:54
dolphin2
Inactive

@ZIppyDSM Soon WGA will be put into a Auto Update that you will not know it is being installed. @bluedogs

Quote:
Revemp '98
That's never going to happen.

3616.6.2006 10:49
janrocks
Inactive

This is a very worrying trend.. What is it to microsoft if you have hacked 3rd party software on your machine?? That's not really the issue that concerns me most..There are far reaching implications in this.. No homebrew software..no freeware that isn't approved by some suits somewhere. It will kill freelance software development stone dead if people can't install and test beta software. A huge step backwards. All I can say is show your disapproval with your feet and stop using ANY M$ software on the internet. As the percentage share drops they will be forced to reconsider. They only got the huge market share in the early days by making it free for personal use..there were much better GUI's about in the days of 3.1. Remember the Amiga? That was killed off by M$ basically giving 3.1 away free. It's cute when you install it on a 486 and when it asks for the code it doesn't care if you have one or not.. Those were the days. Written on Debian 3.1 No M$ software whatsoever on this computer! @ bluedogs.. get cadega and play whatever you want.. lol

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 16 Jun 2006 @ 10:51

3716.6.2006 11:55

Yep, welcome to the brave new world and they sold it to us lock, stock, and barrel. Not only will they start deleting programs(for 'your benefit') stuff like DVDFAB/Xcopy that might be left from the bygone days of 'Fair Use'(does anyone remember 'fair use'? anyone?) MS and the RIAA will take all of your legally ripped MP3's that do not have licenses and either delete them or not allow you to use them,"because we're concerned for your security". http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/jun06/3673 I'm going to go buy 10 acres and become a Luddite. I don't need much of the information they are providing me anyway. Its either propaganda or marketing and I have no use for either. Cell phones are an annoyance for the most part, so they can keep that, text messaging, and video too. Music and movies mostly s#@$ anymore. I will miss my games though. boohoo. It just isn't worth the aggravation anymore.

3816.6.2006 12:03

lyrik “Delete any program that it does not’ ... like. I didn’t know that Vista did that. Scary! Really scary! But I shouldn’t be surprised. I suspect that M$ and other software vendors are hiding code on customers’ hardware that is capable of being turned on to sabotage the customer’s activities. Easy concept – control the user by usurping any software they don’t want the user to run: remove outright, degrade performance, create failures, produce anomalies, etc. Sony, Microsoft & quite a few other powerful technology (and entertainment) outfits, seem to have developed the notion that the consumer really is the enemy. Not their bread and butter – not their customer, but the enemy. The fact that customers are paying for their product eases neither their insatiable greed nor their paranoia. Trying to use a purchased product actually draws suspicion upon a customer. Of late, each time I either boot or update, I’m forced to wait for WGA to check up on me still one more time. Last weekend I timed it – it wasted 2 minutes and 10 seconds of MY TIME before the update would even start. I read here that they’re going to stretch that out to checking every two weeks. Whoopee!! Now just a thought ... can you imagine Sam Walton’s folks bursting in on us at home every two weeks and demanding proof that the clothes we are wearing or the food in our frig was legitimately purchased and should in their opinion be in our house – then hauling it off if they’re not convinced. I personally believe that if it weren’t for the corporate funds flowing to the politicians and to their parties, that there’d have been really strong legislation in place long ago to protect the individual. SONY execs would never have dared to pull their stunt. Nothing the nature of WGA would ever have been developed by any reputable company. There should have been billions in fines, and hundreds jailed. I wonder if my congressman is pestered by this stuff. Nah, he’s probably wined and dined on yachts in his spare time instead of messing with a computer. There! I feel just a little bit better now.

3916.6.2006 18:16

*sigh* I hate SP2 and dont want anyhtign to do with it I was abotu to buy a new use copy of SP1 off ebay but I have desided to wait to see how this mess will work itself out.....


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4016.6.2006 21:52
dolphin2
Inactive

@ZIppyDSM I fail to see the logic behind your current fear of SP2. Don't you ever update your system? What about your other programs, do you update them? Isn't the OS more important to update than say, AnyDVD?


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4117.6.2006 4:15

dolphin2 SP2 likes to break drivers of hardware it dose not like,it likes to not work with some progrms,it likes to act strangley with some hardware thats SP1 compabile.....I update SP1 to the max but I wont touch SP2 I have tried SP2 at least twice a year since its conception.... I have ran into so many small issues that I'd just rather have XP a working simi complabile stable OS than XP SP2 a stable OS thats non complabile....and another thign about SP2 I ahte recovery loves to fck with files SP1 recovery just "fixs" whatever files that are there but SP2s recovery knocks stuff back to that date and deletes files and stuff its rather annoying....

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 17 Jun 2006 @ 4:20

Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Lets renegotiate them.

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4217.6.2006 9:43
dolphin2
Inactive

You must be using some really old hardware/software.


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4321.6.2006 13:59
jziman
Inactive

@ ZippyDSM No audio/video blocks yet. Everything seems to be working perfect. Accept that nero7 will not install. I use any dvd and shrink to make my backups and these installed and work correctly!!

4421.6.2006 15:09

jziman just wait untill retail comes out with its auto updateing locks and blocks!!


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4521.6.2006 16:03

Are you certain that M$ will attempt to block software or automatically uninstall it?? I dunno, as much as they would like to control anybody's pc, it wouldn't be their business. Would it?? I mean, consumer would still have its rights, and as individuals nobody has the right to restrain what we do or don't. That's what I think.


Chuck

"Men are slower to recognize blessings than misfortunes." Titus Livius (59BC-17AD)

4621.6.2006 16:42

tranquash Well they want to lock the audio and video feeds on Vista makeing only DRM'd stuff able to paly,blocking and removieng programs they dislike(copy programs(DVD,HD,CD anyhtign thats not on thier list),workaround programs,tweak programs) they could dub it gray ware and do a ad/spy ware block on it,it could happen but right now they are focusing on being hollywoods new bitch and locking down the new OS for the new rigen of D R M...............I wouldnt be supried if they ocked down the 3D part and DRM'd it so that only officail(no emluation) games will run 0-o...but as I said it can happen...but I dont realy see it right now they are fosuceing on VIDEO and mabye Audio DRM *L* OMG I had a thought thier trying to scrable your computer so you have to pay to use it 0_o (titling head to try and see thru the scrambled image) OMG!!! I see a webpage!!! LOL


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4722.6.2006 14:03
jziman
Inactive

I really dont think that M$ is gonna lock it down that far. Granted the bottom line is the customer. But just incase they do i have just built a Linux box just incase i need to change OS's

4822.6.2006 16:46

jziman they will lock down Videe and audio into DRM only streams,that much I know for sure the rest......they can do if theya re assnie enough.


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4923.6.2006 8:51

I lack technological background, so please excuse my short-sight, and You may be right, but What would happen with personal audio and video??? Would it have to be edited with some sort of encryption?? New software?? Or just no new software whatsoever??


Chuck

"Men are slower to recognize blessings than misfortunes." Titus Livius (59BC-17AD)

5023.6.2006 9:28

tranquash from what I understand it willbe locked to that PC,at least thats thier main aim,altho I think even they see that as short sighted,I mean are they willing to give the MAC all the people that make and edit thier home videos and put them on DVDs and such? ......


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Lets renegotiate them.

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514.7.2006 9:59

WGA should be removed, or rendered useless, because it is useless for the customer.

524.7.2006 15:47

Spekaing of whitch my uncel has a egit install 139 from tiger direct the damn activation screen pops up each time you boot and says when you activate that its already activeated.....this is givieng me a headache how do you fix it?


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Lets renegotiate them.

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5330.12.2006 10:40

Ok.... here's how you get rid of the annoying windows blue star. Go here, read the directions. It'll take you about 2 minutes. It's a slightly different method and will work if others don't. http://www.rfuz.com/windows/tips-and-tricks/how-to-remove-the-annoying-blue-star-windows-validation-check-notification.html If you're getting blocked from downloading updates because of the Windows Genuine Validation thingy, then go here to learn how to bypass. http://www.rfuz.com/windows/tips-and-tricks/crack-or-hack-the-windows-xp-genuine-advantage-validation-check.html Goodluck and happy new year everyone!

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