Someone is Watching You

Microsoft wants to be your big brother.

The Windows Genuine Advantage is pitched here. If you have unknowningly activated the pilot version of WGA Notifications, Microsoft offers this easy to follow set of instructions to disable WGA here.

After you read those instructions, you may know why I prefer a Mac.

Microsoft, like some other software companies, is now looking to establish hidden links from your computer back to their servers. These links will allow detailed command and control over the use of the software and can be installed without your knowledge. In the case of the Microsoft WGA pilot, they were polling users on a daily basis. The full story is here.

Your usage can be monitored. Your software can be disabled. Attributes about your machine can be captured.

This is all done in the name of software piracy control. If the manufacturer has a reason to believe that your software is running on the wrong machine, then it can be remotely disabled. This might happen, say, when you change machines and reinstall your software. In some cases, it could happen if you upgrade hardware components within your PC.

Obviously, if you pirate software in the first place, you will likely find other ways to defeat such technologies. So, in effect, legitimate users are harassed.

If you happen to work for organizations where hidden back channels represent a security risk, it is reassuring to know that it is not a hacker that wants to spy on you. It is only Microsoft.

1984

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