Windows Genuine Advantage

Recently, Microsoft quietly released hotfix KB905747 which includes updates for WGA. The update now includes a wonderful “in your face” popup message if you are running a supposed pirated copy of Windows XP. I think this picture is most fitting for this situation:

It appears that a file called WGATray.exe that ties in with WGA runs all the time consuming both CPU time and memory. Microsoft, what are you doing? The interesting part of the WGA program is that if you purchase a counterfeit copy of Windows XP, you can get a legitimate one from Microsoft for free. You of course have to provide proof of purchase and the CD you bought. So, does that mean I can buy a $5 copy from China and Microsoft will give me the $200 version of Windows XP Professional for free? Oh wait…only “high-quality” counterfeit copies quality for that offer. What exactly is “high-quality” anyways?

On every message board you will find MS-MVP Carey Frisch quoting links to WGA articles. Here is a message from Carey Frisch: it’s the professionalism I enjoy.

From: "Carey Frisch"
References:
<#aV#1AerBHA.2344@tkmsftngp07>
Subject: Re: Video Card Size?
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 19:50:55 -0600
Lines: 15
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
charset="iso-8859-1"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2600.0000
Message-ID:
Newsgroups: microsoft.public.windowsxp.customize
NNTP-Posting-Host: HUBMS-ubr-24-33-9-77.midsouth.rr.com 24.33.9.77
Path: archiver1.google.com!news1.google.com

Q.  "Try reading the post idiot!!"

A.  You called me an idiot!  Shame on you for calling me an idiot.  I am an eXPert!  I
resent being called an idiot!  Don't you ever, ever call me an idiot again, you idiot

I’m sure glad Microsoft promotes those with such good manners to act as piracy watch dogs on their behalf. The great thing is that WGA is also misidentifying legitimate, honest to goodness copies of Windows XP too! Just head over to the Windows Genuine Advantage Forum and click on the subforum WGA Validation Problems to see what I mean.

That’s not to say that Microsoft doesn’t deserve to be paid, but don’t punish the consumers: go after the counterfeiters! Any one swift enough with a search engine can bypass WGA. Why should someone that already purchased Windows XP once be forced to purchase it yet again while the crackers and the pirates laugh all the way to the bank? What is Microsoft doing to secure its product keys? What would prevent a cracker from going to a University and running a product key finder on a machine running Windows XP? Who’s responsible for securing the product key: Microsoft or the University?

Why is the burden of piracy placed on the consumer? I can see it now: “you must be connected to the Internet for Microsoft Windows to work. If you are disconnected from the Internet, Microsoft Windows will work in a reduced functionality mode. With the spread of WiFi hotspots and free Internet, there is no excuse not to be connected to the Internet. Microsoft Windows needs to check if your copy of Windows is legitimate every 15 minutes and report back to our servers. If we find that you are running a bootleg copy, Microsoft Windows will be instructed to self destruct and will wipe all of the data off all fixed media at a random time. This will be to teach you about using non-genuine Microsoft software

Note that the above paragraph is satire, but is not too far off mark. Makers of WhereIsIt and CDRWin placed “bomb code” in their products if they detected a pirated code was be using (WhereIsIt locks catalogs with the message “Warez user” and CDRWIN would randomly produce coasters if a pirated key was being used). Would you like to use a piece of software that has “bomb code” in it? What if that “bomb code” was accidentally triggered? There are enough problems a computer user has to deal then having to now deal with WGA and “bomb code” (spyware, viruses, spam, phishing, etc).

Here’s another interesting tidbit from WGA cheerleader Carey Frisch:

From: "Carey Frisch"
References: <3cefd510_2@news1.meganetnews.com>
Subject: Re: How to Defeat  XP Activation
Date: Sat, 25 May 2002 22:04:20 -0500
Lines: 11
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
charset="iso-8859-1"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000
x-mimeole: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2600.0000
Message-ID: <#vzdxHGBCHA.1340@tkmsftngp02>
Newsgroups: microsoft.public.windowsxp.help_and_support
NNTP-Posting-Host: hubms-ubr-24-33-9-77.midsouth.rr.com 24.33.9.77
Path: archiver1.google.com!

Don't be surprised that one day, upon downloading an update from the Windows Update site,
that upon reboot, you cannot access your XP O/S because it was an unauthorized, pirated
version.  And you'll have no legal leg to stand on.  This has already happened with those
running a pirated version of Office 2000.  Download and install SP1 for Office 2000 and
one can no longer open the program.  And Microsoft has every right to do this.

Moral of the story:  Honesty is the best policy!

--
Carey Frisch (USA)

If Carey (again, who Microsoft supports, since he is a MS-MVP) gets his way, any computer running WGA that identifies a bootleg copy will get shut down. It does not matter if WGA is correct in its judgement or not.

Update: This article is from Paul Thurott’s WinInfo newsletter dated 6/9/06:

Microsoft Concocts Yet Another Reason to Love Windows Genuine Advantage

I was sitting around the other day listing all the things I just love about Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), Microsoft’s antipiracy tool. But then I discovered a hidden WGA feature that I’d never heard about, mostly because Microsoft had kept it a secret. It turns out that WGA actually connects to a Microsoft server every time you boot your PC.

That’s right. It’s spyware. Microsoft actually installs a tool on your PC that does nothing more than check to ensure that you’re not pirating Windows, and it does this check every single day and then sends the results back to Microsoft. This insidious behavior was first discovered by Lauren Weinstein, the co-founder of People For Internet Responsibility, and it’s touched off a debate about disclosure and privacy. But seriously, this situation is ridiculous. It’s bad enough that we’re treated like pirates. Do we have to be spied on every single day as well?

Link to Lauren Weinstein’s blog entry on this. Apparently, it’s true. My satire was not too far off! Microsoft continually checks your OS and can revoke your activated status at any time!!!!

– Soli Deo Gloria

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