Microsoft draws fire for stealth test program

by admin June 13, 2006 at 1:36 pm

Millions of Windows users may unwittingly be test subjects for an unfinished Microsoft antipiracy tool.

The software maker has been delivering a prerelease version of Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications software to PCs as a “high priority” item in the built-in update feature in Windows. The tool, also known as WGA Notifications, is used to validate the authenticity of Windows software installed on a PC.

The move is a first for the software maker. Microsoft normally asks people to join test programs before it initiates the download of any such trial software.

“I don’t think that we have done it before,” David Lazar, director of the Windows Genuine program at Microsoft, told CNET on Monday. “WGA Notifications is a unique program.”

Microsoft has been expanding its effort to distinguish pirated copies of Windows from legitimately acquired ones. The original WGA program, launched in September 2004, calls for people to validate their Windows installation when they download additional Microsoft software from a Microsoft Web site. In November, it introduced the separate WGA Notifications program. It now sends prerelease WGA Notifications software to people in a number of countries, including the United States.

But some security experts are troubled by Microsoft’s decision to deliver prerelease software to millions of Windows users without clearly notifying them. People may not realize they are participating in a trial and have in essence become unsuspecting guinea pigs, they said.

Full article: c|net