Will Windows Genuine Advantage Become Microsoft's Rootkit?

from the lawsuits-trying-to-make-it-so dept

After lots of complaints from perfectly legitimate users, who found Microsoft’s new “Windows Genuine Advantage” system not so advantageous, Microsoft has finally agreed to back down on the anti-piracy tool a bit. WGA was supposed to check to make sure your copy of Windows was legit, but if it got something wrong, you could be without your computer. Also, many people just aren’t that comfortable with a computer spying on them. Well, now the same lawyers who filed a class action lawsuit against Sony BMG for their rootkit have filed a suit against Microsoft, noting that WGA appears to violate spyware laws. While WGA doesn’t seem nearly as bad as the Sony rootkit, Microsoft’s slow response to complaints could create backlash against the company in the same way that Sony BMG faced a ton of backlash. It’s yet another example of a company selling you something where they want to hang onto a lot more control than they should — potentially causing problems. Once again, treating all your customers as criminals tends not to be a great business strategy.

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Comments on “Will Windows Genuine Advantage Become Microsoft's Rootkit?”

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Wire Cramped (user link) says:


Comparing it to the BMG issue!!!! Well yes I agree they should back off the WGA and lean a little more on the register to make it work thing. They do want to control piracy of their products and its a difficult topic at best.

Dont treat users as theives and they will make your company grow (circa early M$ 1990’s) as opposed to ignore it and let it disolve before your eyes (circa MAC 1990’s)

Now MAC is user aware and friendly and Windows is getting creepy in its old age. I operate both systems and I prefer Windorks myself but if they try this carp i will use an old version as a hold out until both systems , MAC/Windows truly become one and then just pick the least overbearing of the two.

william says:

I had that WGA thing come up on my computer and decided to do a system restore to before installing the windows update and turned off automatic updates. It seems to have gotten rid of the annoying thing. My computer does not have an OEM windows install though (I was to broke when I got it). Anyway I’m thinking of going back to LINUX on my desktop b/c Microsoft is such a bastard.

Horse Mouth says:

my car is a pinto - runabout - a mile and stop

just like windows productivity, you run about a mile and stop to authenticate, restore, clean up, reboot, scan, update, remove, repair….when I finally get done with my windows babysitting chores I have time to finally pay the car note on the other product from brain-dead design…my pinto.

Gee, do you think I mighta bought 2 of the same kinda disgraceful design lemons of the 20th century?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wake Up People

No, Microsoft owning Windows is not a reason for them to abuse the trusted auto-update system with deceptive software that relays information about your computer to their servers. Did you notice who owns the computer? YOU! It is software they are licensing to use on a product that you purchased or built yourself.

Don’t get caught up in minimal legal details when the ‘rental’ comes with pre-defined expectations of fair-use and privacy.

haywood says:

What a PITA

I had a friend’s computer in for a “can you save it” & was able to clean up the 5 trojans and the crashed anti-virus. the wga was another matter, it pops up every few minutes to say sp2 isn’t installed, and yet it won’t do the web install and it turned off system restore. If I’d had more time I might have found and installed the administrative SP2, but since it is merely annoying, I left it. This was on a Dell with a perfectly legit copy of XP home. My advise; TURN OFF AUTOMATIC UPDATES, at this point you have more to fear from them than the supposed holes they fix.

HotGarbage (profile) says:

doesn't matter to the regular consumer

Once again, it doesn’t matter to the regular Joe Consumer…They don’t know enough nor do they care that they are being spied on. They also don’t know enough about their options to switch to an os that is isn’t spying on them or regulating how it is used. So, in all, Microsoft will still have the marke share in desktop OS and nothing will change that.

ebrke says:

Re: doesn't matter to the regular consumer

The problems with Joe Consumer hit the fan when MS disables Joe’s XP operating system and gives him 30 days to pay to upgrade to Vista because “it’s more secure”. That’s what this is all about–catching a few pirated versions of windows is just gravy. MS is preparing for the forced upgrade path of the future.

Rob (user link) says:

It's not about the average joe

It’s more about system vendors here. The average consumer is running a Dell, HP/Compaq, or Emachine. All of those come with Windows unless you change the os yourself or ask to have *nix installed when u customize it. Most people don’t even know it’s an option to install Linux. Not to mention most software is written for Windows and despite emulators and their growth over the years, the more informed consumer still thinks they can’t get Office on a *nix box.

Point is, it’s not the users fault they are just limited in their options. Though, I do hear that some vendors are starting to push alternative Os’ more and custom system builders have done so for a period of time, to save their customers money. IF the vendors decide to go against MS then it will trickle down into the consumers home.

tristan (user link) says:

shame on you

WGA has put me off microsoft.. I used to love MS, I even have an MS tshirt.. and this is how they treat customers? I work as an IT tech, and sometimes have to install a bootleg copy on a customers machine because the license code on the side of their case doesn’t work with a later version of xp. They paid for xp, and now they have to stuff around on the phone with indians for 4 hours, and still get no where.

I also beta tested Vista. I was so upset. It was like a horrible theme on XP, trying to look like OS X. I want something fast and reliable, no one in business is concerned with stupid opacities and shadows. Wake-up MS, don’t copy Apple, do something new. If you are going to implement OpenGL, try working with a 3D desktop, with 3D video conferencing with intergrated voip – or something useful for business, not some gay widgets.

JoeyPoey says:

Why dont you just...

slip 20 bucks to a college student and have him buy you a copy of Windows Home edition? The disk costs 10 bucks, so the other ten would be for the kid.

Or even better, get a professor or staff memeber to buy you a copy of XP Pro (without the dial-home to activate) for the same price?

It’s legit–sponsored by Microsoft (first one’s free-er, discounted, kid), and the XP Pro edition–from what i’ve seen–uses the same serial number for ALL of the copies.

Jon says:

Their Loss

If people are pirating an OS then M$ should want them to pirate their OS.

I hope WGA does work and works well. Then the techs who build their own computers at home are more likely to try Linux. Then once they are comfortable with Linux, then they are more likely to implement it at work. Then it will hit M$ right in the pocketbook.

Allan ODale says:

WGA, and other windows eavesdroppers

i’d like a LOT more information on exactly what wga is phoning home about when it calls. just what information is microsoft collecting thru wga?

similarly, i believe that when you use windows media center, it uses windows messenger to phone home. for what purpose.

does windows media player phone home, even if you opt not to share information with windows about the media you use?

i have noticed windows self-initiating dr. watson. it is diagnosing my machine without my knowledge?

this is all a fascinating and important topic… but does any one have ANY information about the data being collected by microsoft here?

Bill says:

Get real

I’ve been working with computers since punch cards and XP and Server 2003 are by far the best operating systems out there. Unix? Only for big buisness. Linux? A Unix wannabe step back to dos days. OS X? Give me a break, more crApple crap!

Now-a-days it’s in vogue to bash microsoft, so everybody does it to prove that they’re in-the-know. Those of us who are will continue to use the tools that make our lives easier.

James says:

Re: Get real

I might ask you to get real,

As both a EE/CS student and a self-employed tech, I’ve worked extensively with both. I would personally say that though Windows was initially easier to install, Linux was more configurable, more powerful, and better documented. What was impossible to do under Windows I could learn how to do in Linux within half an hour. The same applies when you look at Apache vs. IIS. And let’s not even mention repair: try doing anything from the Windows Repair Console. Linux, just telinit 1 and you can do whatever you need.

Windows may be easier for the average Joe, but that’s because power comes with responsibility. Windows hides everything behind pretty pictures, but under the hood it’s an ugly beast. Linux is more like a well laid out computer with a clear side panel. Sure you see the guts sometimes, but they’re actually nice to look at.

william says:

Re: Get real

I had Suse Linux on my computer and it was nice for web browsing and watching video. Way better than Windows XP.

FIRST: It never crashed the whole time I had it not once and I left it on all the time.

SECOND: It came with Firefox the best web brower out there today.

THIRD: With a little bit of work it was able to play every video and audio format I could find. And I was able to install Quicktime

FOURTH: Email was no problem with the built in email program

FIFTH: Open Office was a nice Productivity sweet that was able to open all my MS Office files.

SIXTH: Never got a computer virus

SEVENTH: It was very easy to install.

EIGHTH: I was free.

NINTH: The GUI was a lot like OSX it was very easy to use and quite nice looking.

And most home users only want to surf the web possibly write papers and Emial from there home computers. So the lack of crashing and viruses would be a huge plus.

The only thing missing is gaming that is almost exclusively written for PC’s but I’m not a big gamer and didn’t miss it.

All that said I don’t believe Linux will replace Windows, at least not with this generation. Most users seem to only have it in them to learn one OS and then stick with it for life. And even I would hate to lose programs like Powerpoint and Excel and Open Directory on the server side although I think in the next few years we will see something comperable come out for Linux.

And they make great servers.

jim says:

Re: Get real

Been in IT just as long as you
–preferred Novell Netware to windows desktop OS shoehorned into server mode, with the same faults as the base desktop
kernel video, too many reboots to fix system changes, has improved but not enough
Gui ease of use is not any better than Mac servers or Netware or Linux,
Novell’s groupwise is a better product than Ms exchange, but maybe there is not enough payola to make it viable for the execs to pick something that makes more sense technically..

Wire Cramped (user link) says:

MS Phone home!

Ok I thought E.T. was a freak of nature and looked a bit suspect too! But NOW after we see all the evidence of WGA we know for sure this one thing!

E.T. is really Bill G. and has a plan to own all our brains!!!!


“… get your little red finger outta my face or I will snap it off!”

Diorist says:

I don’t get it. If the lion’s share of piracy happens in China, Hong Kong, and other non-US countries, but the WGA isn’t on Chinese Windows, what’s the point of it on US computers?

I can’t imagine that keeping the first world honest is the point. If Microsoft really wanted to kybosh piracy, it would offer a free turkey for registering Windows, nab a few hapless suburbanites, and put their heads out on legal stakes for all the public to witness.

No, keeping Americans honest can’t be worth the money of developing a rootkit — not to mention the support costs for the system screw ups and other anomalies. So what’s the ROI? Forcing upgrades, maybe. Collecting valuable data on customers’ IS environments, system inventories, and God knows what else the software can scan and share, maybe. And if not this iteration, which might be a relatively harmless trial balloon, then the next one.

Screw that. I’ll find a workaround out of principle. Microsoft has repeatedly demonstrated that it can’t be trusted to treat its customers decently. And, like Mama always said, only liars think everyone’s a liar.

Nick says:

Only in windows

Im a user of windows since 3.1. Soo soo long ago. I hate to say it but these days most people are just stuck with windows. Im currently trying to get into the swing of linux, but you have to face the music.

Windows has this game down. The consumer wants easy. Even as a relatively compitent tech, I cannot do all that i can with windows in linux. Games are specifically built for windows. Using that lovely wine program i can get about half of the games i like to work. When a new patch comes out for your average MMO, wine takes about a week to catch up. Give or take.

Your average user wont stand for that. They want it and they want it now.

Linux is great for things like Word processing, web surfing and the like. But honestly, it doesnt have the easy interface, and usability windows currently sports. You cant just throw in a dvd (with most distros anyway) and make it work. You cant just toss in a game and play it. You have to research, find and implament a lot of code to get it running the things you want that run natively on windows. Your average user wont do that.

Just because of that, windows is here to stay. Once linux can run any piece of software on the shelf that was designed for windows without the work, it will become a viable option for the average level consumer.

now now, children says:

You gotta love this stuff! As irritated as I am by the fact that MGA aka WGA has inhibited the ability of my purchased,licensed XP to use Microsoft Update aka Windows Update (so abandon that crap and access the catalog directly or use automatic updates to notify then download), I know full well that “It’s the architecture, stupid!”. My recommendation: keep expectations where they should be for this nonsense: low. I’ve been supporting the Dinosaur[sic] mainframes for 20 years now; thank goodness corporate management STILL has enough wisdom to trust the most vital corporate data aka customer data aka our data (I ain’t talking about email, Powerpoint presentations and IM) to that venerable, reliable, secure,purposefully engineered workhorse.

M Dundas says:

Consulting fees for Microsoft

I have that issue with quite a few of my clients. THey have legitimate copies in their business, yet this WGA has caused issues and cost them money.

They are not technical and as such call me in to help. They have purchased the licenses and have the original bill of sale etc.

I have to deal with calling Microsoft for hours. I’m done. Disabled all automatic updates. Happy to help Microsoft fight their piracy issues that were brought on by them. They just need to identify where my clients can send a bill to them to be paid, for the lost downitme, pay for the time the client gets charged from me to deal with them etc. etc.

Mark (user link) says:

I love Microsoft! Windows Rules

I’m studying to be an MCSE, I have 17 computers and 2 of them run licensed Windows. I download the updates and install them once a week, manually, theres was only ONE WGA critical update and I just avoid that one. It wasnt a ROOTKIT in an way. I will never run Eunichs! I try all sorts of cool Microsoft products, learn them, put them on my resume, and then get a job, then I recommend the our company BUY THEM. Long live the GUI! Command line is from the 1960’s! I cannot believe that Cisco and nix still use it!.

Jonathan Bailey says:

WGA has "infected" my computer

Last week, WGA suddenly announced that my copy of Windows on my nearly 4 year old HP Pavilion was not legitimate. Every fix I’ve tried as suggested by the MS support site has failed. Furthermore, I can’t boot up in safe mode, internet explorer won’t let me get at any site for which I have a password and URLs in emails won’t launch. Microsoft tries to point me back to HP as it’s their computer. HP doesn’t know what to do because it’s an OS problem and it has been modified (SPK2, WGA, etc. by MS and not them) since I bought it and it’s long out of warranty.

Any suggestions on how I can get this resolved would be greatly appreciated.

frank burns says:


Whilst there are many programs and configuration files that we all must intercept, it boils down to our understanding of these files and how best we implement them on our computers.It is by far a reasonable thing to expect that the program will fail but only, if we remove sections from within a script to disable a feature we do not want. The problem with doing this is that there are file checkers that actually rely on these features being installed and if you delete them, the concept of the program becomes incompatable and inoperative. As it sits on your computer in the form you’ve designed, other scripts are written like ngen which invalidates your operating system files.Having ascertained that you have access to your computer is fine and it works well and you’re feeling that you’ve beaten either Microsoft,Google or Yahoo at their own game.What you don’t know is what you don’t see. Billions can go into developing programs which give us the insight (at the developers end) to experience good programs which we can all share and enjoy. As far as WGA is concerned, wouldn’t you all at least allow the developer to implement some form of security to better help protect their patents and provide updates to the betterment of us all. I have had issues with a number of companies but as they protect our privacy, it is not ettiqette for us to defame them by name through feedback on forums. Have the guts to say it to their face, learn to deal with the company as a relationship base direct and attempt to resolve your issues and concerns. If you cannot do this, go and see a computer technician or a friend and ask them to help. Appreciate the efforts of others and have a happy life.

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