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Microsoft Talks Daily With Your Computer 686

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-could-go-wrong dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft Corp. acknowledged Wednesday that it needs to better inform users that its tool for determining whether a computer is running a pirated copy of Windows also quietly checks in daily with the software maker. The company said the undisclosed daily check is a safety measure designed to allow the tool, called Windows Genuine Advantage, to quickly shut down in case of a malfunction." The EULA is suppose to disclose this daily call-in feature. Lauren Weinstein, who is co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, was one of the first people to notice the daily communications to Microsoft. Report from Yahoo.com"
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Microsoft Talks Daily With Your Computer

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  • Minor edit (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:23PM (#15491590)

    The EULA is suppose to

    That should be 'supposed'. What happened to the 'd'?

    disclosed this

    Oh, there it is.

    • by johnrpenner (40054) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @12:24AM (#15492428) Homepage

      if microsoft can remotely 'unlegitimize' a copy of windows,
      couldn't a virus or worm massively remotely cripple loads of machines
      by exploiting this...?

      • by Poltras (680608) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @12:40AM (#15492498) Homepage
        Actually it can, quite easily... with administrative rights, it can cripple most of your registry and many drivers/dlls (even those unchecked by Windows) and then reboot the machine :) that would work quite efficiently.

        The goal of many viruses is not to destroy stuff, but simple other goals such as:

        • Make money over advertisement (adware).
        • Botnets, in order to attain other goals (DoS, attacks, etc)
        • Get passwords, credit cards number and other information which could be useful.
        • Leave a message (think MSBLAST.exe kind). What better way to tell "I <3 you" than with the gift of a virus?
        A destroyed installation of Windows does not serve much...
        • by cp.tar (871488)

          A destroyed installation of Windows does not serve much...

          Well, it could...

          Imagine, if you will, how Slashdotters are perceived: mostly Linux-fanatics, Microsoft-haters, bloody communists etc.
          Is it not possible that some of us created a virus as a mere propaganda tool to make people turn away from Windows?

          It wouldn't be that difficult - just create a tiny program that would check for unpatched and unprotected computers. Nothing virus-like in checking whether certain software is present on one's comput

          • The question is: if we all really are such anti-social techno creeps, why haven't we done that already?

            The answer is: There is a difference between being antisocial and being downright sociopathic.

            Also I can't think of anything worse than having to understand Windows sufficiently to write such a worm. Urrgh, I feel dirty even thinking about it. I'm off to take a shower in Jeyes Fluid. (Lysol for you US folks).
          • Confused (Score:5, Funny)

            by alexhs (877055) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @04:36AM (#15493085) Homepage Journal
            Then, on a certain date (sadly, 6/6/06, although very symbolic, passed without any such occurence)

            Excuse me, in what order did you write that date ?
            • American way : June 6th 2006
            • European way : 6th June 2006
            • Asian way : 2006 June 6th
            • Alien way : 6th 2006 June

            When all numbers are below 12, it's quite hard to get a clue ;)
            Is it even 2006 ? 1906 and 1006 fits in too...
            • Re:Confused (Score:5, Funny)

              by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @06:27AM (#15493308) Journal
              Excuse me, in what order did you write that date ?
              Alien way : 6th 2006 June

              Ah, you have much to learn, young one...

              You were hoping to discern my location, political orientation and whatnot based on my date format?

              Do you really think I would let on that I'm an alien in such an obvious way?

              When you see a flying saucer in front of your house, that's when you'll know we've come for you...

          • by jellomizer (103300) * on Thursday June 08, 2006 @07:14AM (#15493390)
            It has been happening. And still it wont change anything. For a simple reason people will not get fired for choosing Microsoft.
            You install Windows it gets hacked or a virus infects the network then that is considered a risk of using a computer. If they installed Linux or some lesser known OS. It gets hacked or a worm hits it or it crashes for some reason even it if it minor, I am sure you will have a serious talking to with your managers at best, and they may possibly fire you especially if you really fought hard to get this platform in.
      • I didn't think they needed any help...
      • Virus scenario (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 08, 2006 @04:54AM (#15493128)
        A virus could use one of the "Product-Key Changer" scripts (see http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=328874 [microsoft.com]) to install a pirated product key on every infected computer (whiping all traces of the original key).

        This would render millions of genuine installations indistinguishable from pirated installations. What a mess for Microsoft! They would have to immediately "kill forever" the WGA helper, and maybe even remove the WGA check on Windows Update.

        Such a virus would be a hard lesson to learn for the writers of all kinds of automated "genuine" checks.

        Regards,
        M.
    • Re:Minor edit (Score:3, Informative)

      by RPoet (20693)
      The "d" in "supposed" is increasingly seen as redundant when followed by a word starting with a "d"-like sound, such as "to". So "supposed to" becomes "suppose to", because they are phonetically very similar. It's just how it is these days.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:24PM (#15491593)
    ... quickly shut down in case of a malfunction.

    So Genuine Advantage needs to contact the mothership in order to be told that it's broken and needs to terminate?

    Please.
    • by caitsith01 (606117) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:32PM (#15491913) Journal
      Whilst I generally agree that it is indeed bullshit, it is possible to imagine the scenario in which, for some reason, there is a bug in Genuine Advantage which leads to a denial of access to the Windows Update service for legitimately registered users.

      I have often wondered whether Steam has a similar feature - if Valve goes bankrupt, for instance, does it release you from the (ridiculous) copy protection/licensing arrangements put in place when you install Half Life 2 and other products?

      The best way to do any of this would be to simply check if the parent company's server is still there and able to provide authentication/updating. If it is unavailable for some reason the local software should function autonomously, as it always should, but without the need for approval from the parent.

      Of course the *real* best solution is to stop trying to monitor usage on a micro-level and just make good products at a reasonable price. As has been demonstrated over and over again, this is the way to stop piracy.
      • I have often wondered whether Steam has a similar feature - if Valve goes bankrupt, for instance, does it release you from the (ridiculous) copy protection/licensing arrangements put in place when you install Half Life 2 and other products?

        Valve have said that patches would be released to release you from the copy protection in such a situation.

        The best way to do any of this would be to simply check if the parent company's server is still there and able to provide authentication/updating. If it is unavailab
    • I hate that tool...it seems like it is the only update that gets pulled down regularily. It pulls itself down and gets installed when I finally relent to it (since I am in no hurry to update it, even though updates come out all of the time) but then it wants me to restart. That's all fine and dandy, I'll let it do its business the next time I feel like restarting.

      Oh, whats this? It pops up every 10 minutes asking me to reboot and gives me no option like "remind me tomorrow"

      Come on microsoft...dont force me to sit through this shit on nonessential updates

    • by rodgster (671476) * <rodgster @ y a h oo.com> on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @11:02PM (#15492043) Journal
      OK. I agree It's total BS. Anyone here remember win98 1st ed phone home info disclosure (on connect to windows update)? Oh and they forgot to disclose that in the EULA too.

      Same tricks, different year.

      However it's not like Redhat's Up2date doesn't phone home daily too. Oh and doesn't it NOT allow you to automagically install patches unless you have current support agreement (which you could rotate between servers if you had one).

      I only happen to know because a certain software vendor likes to use RHEL (maybe they're just rolling back prices like walmart).

      I guess that's within the rules (but they're still scumbags)?

      I run Fedora.

  • Whoa! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rahrens (939941) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:24PM (#15491594)
    Just one more reason NOT to use Windows as my operating system!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:25PM (#15491598)
    *wraps computer in tin foil and duct tape*

    BRING IT ON!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:25PM (#15491601)
    XP Phone Home!
  • Ethereal anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by caryw (131578) <carywiedemann&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:26PM (#15491602) Homepage
    Anyone sniff out the offending packets yet? I'm sure they can't be too hard to identify. Probably simple HTTP posts.

    If nobody has I'll sniff anything going to Microsoft's Class B (207.46.*.*) later tonight.
    --
    From Northern Virginia? Visit Fairfax Underground [fairfaxunderground.com]! (Just added: Fairfax County wiki, need submissions)
    • Re:Ethereal anyone? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Crazyscottie (947072) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:08PM (#15491822)
      Or better yet, you can just prevent those packets from ever reaching their destination.

      The DOS command route -p add 207.46.0.0 mask 255.255.0.0 [192.168.0.254] (replace the address in brackets with a random address on your current subnet) will permanently route all would-be "phone home" packets to the random address that you specified.
       
      ... You could also, of course, use a firewall, but where's the fun in that? ;-)
    • Re:Ethereal anyone? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Billly Gates (198444) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:15PM (#15491852) Journal
      Its been known for years since NT4 about the Windows Update manager.

      I have seen it with the NT Server Network manager (I think that was it?) that sniffed out the packets. I remember reading how to enable your firewall to block it. ITs been awhile since I read about it but its old news.
  • Ooops! (Score:5, Funny)

    by kozumik (946298) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:28PM (#15491612)
    I guess they forgot to disclose that in the EULA. Honest mistake, stuff happens. Now let's go back to not worrying about DRM or Net Neutrality because Big Bussiness is looking out for our best interests.
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:28PM (#15491613) Homepage Journal
    My moms computer which was bought from Best Buy and NEVER had windows re-installed on it was determined by Microsoft to be "not genuine". What fucking bullshit, I never was a Microsoft hater before that even though I used OS X, but calling my mom a criminal even though she isnt is just plain fucking bullshit. Microsoft, you made me a hater, though out of principle I refuse to use "M$"
    • by oscartheduck (866357) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:37PM (#15491654)
      Just be aware that there's a piece of malware going around that performs this function also. It looks like a microsoft box, comes up before you sign in and claims that your copy of windows is not genuine.
  • by Entropy (6967) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:31PM (#15491630)
    TFA says "your computer", but aren't all Windows installs "my computer" on the desktop? Shouldn't it say "your my computer"? Or is it "my your computer"?

    Ah screw it! And screw Microsoft, too.
  • by creimer (824291) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:32PM (#15491635) Homepage
    I knew my PC was cheating on me after I got a Mac. But Microsoft...
  • WgaTray.exe (Score:4, Informative)

    by Zaffo (755234) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:35PM (#15491648)
    Just the other night my copy of ZoneAlarm was alerting me that this exe was trying to make a shout-out to the Internet. A little searching told me what this was, so I set it to permanently deny the request. Problem solved!
  • by imboboage0 (876812) <imboboage0@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:40PM (#15491669) Homepage
    MicroSoft

    So why are we talking about their 'tools?'
  • by timecop (16217) * on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:40PM (#15491673) Homepage
    I heard horror stories of people with 'acquired' versions of Windows XP who went to the 'new' 'Windows Update' service and ended up with an annoying tray icon constantly reminding them that their version of XP is pirated.

    But you know, I havent been to WindowsUpdate in over a year.
    I use a great (and free) tool provided by microsoft themselves - called "MBSA" (Microsoft Base Security Analyzer [microsoft.com]) to download and install updates.

    With MBSA, I can do a quick install of Windows XP with SP2 integrated in vmware, then run this tool, and find out that (as of yesterday) there are 39 hotfixes needed for vanilla XPSP2 install, and it gives me direct (no WGA crap) links to download these updates. All I have to do then is save them all one by one, integrate them into a XP SP2 iso image, and use this pre-integrated disk to install with.

    Since i reinstall windows every few months this is not a problem, and for those who insist on keeping windows machine installed longer, they can simply use MBSA to download incremental updates and install them manually.
  • by AWhiteFlame (928642) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:41PM (#15491678) Homepage
    Here at Microsoft, we care about the Customer Experience. As a result, we've taken the following measures to make sure your experience is as pleasant and beneficial to you as possible.

    - Our new operating system, Windows Vista, requires only the best high-end hardware so that, even on a system well beyond the power you should ever need, you'll still get the true Windows Experience(TM)

    - The new Windows Media Player 11 features all-new and exclusive DRM, or Degradation Resistment Technology by Microsoft, which not only provides wonderful sound in the new and improved WMA format, but protects your rights as well.

    - Our operating systems now report back with system information and other information which we feel should be collected from your system at any given time to improve your computing experience.

    Microsoft: Where do we want to take you today?
  • by Khaed (544779) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:42PM (#15491686)
    I don't have Windows. So Microsoft doesn't talk to my computer. Wouldn't a more accurate title be "Microsoft talks daily to Windows"?

    Considering how often Windows is pirated, I can't say this surprises me. Their excuse is stupid. They should just say "Look, we know people pirate. So we're going to check. If you don't like it, tough." Don't hide it. I'm not saying they're right or wrong to do this -- just that they should be up front about it if they are going to.

    It won't make a dent in their sales. Whether or not you hate Microsoft, love Linux/Apple, or cling to OS/2 -- Microsoft is currently the top dog. Right or wrong; I'm not taking a stance on that, here. It's going to take a lot more than this to hurt Microsoft's bottom line.

    So, you know, just tell us what information you're going to collect.
  • I have a idea. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Avillia (871800) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @09:43PM (#15491690)
    Redirect 207.46.*.* to 255.255.255.255. Only stop doing this when you feel the need to update. Disable automatic updates and all other update services except when you want to update. Problem solved. Really, if people just took the stance of "Why does this thing need to communicate to another computer?" instead of "Why shouldn't I allow this thing to talk to another computer?", 99% of security issues would be complete bork. But, of course, that requires common sense.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:03PM (#15491794)
    Your Computer: Hey Sweetie!
    M$: Hi Schnookums!
    Your Computer: Just checking in
    M$: I love you honey
    Your Computer: Bye Bye Baby
    M$: Sweet Dreams
    Your Computer: No you hangup
    M$: No no you hangup
  • by dognuts (699368) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:06PM (#15491807)
    That's why Ghost is such an important tool! 1/Create Ghost image of your OS 2/Go to MS let them install what they want 3/Check for updates & write down KB# but don't install anything 4/Download the KB's you need to your HD 5/Restore the image you made & install the updates you downloaded. Now you have your updates without any MS garbage on your PC. In case you didn't notice media player has been calling home for years & that doesn't seem to bother anyone!
  • Genuine Infection (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:14PM (#15491850) Homepage Journal
    In my blog^H^H^H^Hjournal I stated why Genuine Advantage only benefits spammers and virus writers [slashdot.org]. It's like if Bill Gates was holding the whole internet hostage against viruses and malware.

    "Oh, that's a nice drive C you have there. It would be a shame if... something happened to it."

    Microsoft could do something much more beneficial to the world if he remotely deactivated all network access in pirated windows- at least we would be safe from unpatched machines spreading viruses and spam.
  • by God of Lemmings (455435) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:47PM (#15491987)
    90 days for hackers to find an exploit in Wga to subvert microsoft's own servers into spambots.
  • by eric31415927 (861917) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @11:14PM (#15492093)
    If you ever install the Microsoft mouse driver from the CD that accompanies the mouse, you'll find that it too calls in each day.
    Why does a mouse driver need to call in daily?

    A better question is: Why install the driver at all?
    Pretty well every version of Windows recognizes a Microsoft mouse with no need for drivers from the CD.
  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @11:27PM (#15492147) Homepage
    "We're looking at ways to communicate that in a more forward manner," he said.
    Well considering the current standard is not at all it shouldn't be too hard to communicate it in a "more forward manner." Burying the disclosure in an .exe. somewhere, never to be shown to the average user, will meet their newly established criteria ...
  • EULA? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Enrique1218 (603187) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @11:38PM (#15492216) Journal
    Oh, yeah that is a good way to disclose something to the public. You can write in under your plan to assassinate the president and take over the world.
  • by I'm Don Giovanni (598558) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @12:44AM (#15492512)
    Microsoft seems too dense to realize that they've squandered trust, and need to be above reproach like Caesar's wife (see Shakespear's "Julius Caesar" ;-)). That means that they need to make sure to disclose these kinds of things; failure to do so (before a third party does it for them) just makes them all the less trustworthy. This episode demonstrates sheer idiocy on their part.
  • I've discovered a patch which disables Windows' "phone home" reporting. It's a fairly large download [ubuntu.com], but it seems to work.
  • Should be illegal. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arrgster (951348) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @10:24AM (#15494299)
    If someone had a certain item stolen and then looked in your window and saw that similar item in your house, they do not have the right to break down your door and check the serial # to make sure it isn't theirs. Yet for some reason big software companies have to right to invade my personal property (my computer) to verify that I actually own the software. This totally bypasses our entire legal system and our constitution and I have no idea why they are getting away with it.
  • with mouse drivers calling daily and now the "genuine advantage" calling in daily you would expect that, by now, MS would have a database bigger than Google's. What are they going to do with this, anyway? BTW: I have a client who was told by Genuine Advantage that he had a pirated version of XP and that he had to pay for a new OS. I left him trying to find his sales receipt from a large, national, computer distributor.

    Thank God I've been running Linux since 1993!!!

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