Utility Nukes Windows Genuine Advantage CallbacksBy Ryan Naraine | Posted 06-21-2006
A private security company has found a way to nuke the controversial callback component in Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy tool.
Firewall Leak Tester, a company that provides tools to test the quality of personal firewall software, has released a utility called RemoveWGA that blocks Microsoft from "phoning home" from Windows PCs on a daily basis.
"Once the WGA Notification tool has checked your OS and has confirmed you had a legit copy, there is no decent point or reason to check it again and again every boot," the company said in a note explaining its motive for releasing the tool.
The WGA tool, which is a mandatory part of the Redmond, Wash., software maker's battle to curb Windows piracy, includes two separate components: WGA validation and WGA notifications. Validation determines whether the copy of Windows installed is pirated or not, and Notifications is set up to nag users whom Microsoft believes are not running "genuine Windows" and "suggest" where they can "learn more about the benefits of using genuine Windows software."
However, Notifications has been "phoning home" to Microsoft's servers on a daily basis, and Windows users are up in arms over potential privacy and security risks. Microsoft insists the callbacks are a "safety check" to ensure that WGA can be terminated quickly if things went amok, but this was never communicated to users until the week of June 4.
On June 8, Microsoft announced plans to tweak the WGA to only check for a new settings file every 14 days.
However, Firewall Leak Tester warned that connecting to Microsoft is a legitimate security issue for corporate networks and privacy issues for Windows users worldwide. "It is also unclear which information [is being] transmitted," the company said, arguing that that Microsoft has used "deceptive ways" to get users to install the tool.
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