Article 43

 

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Is Microsoft About to Release A Windows Kill Switch?

DRM lets software companies plant back doors, hack your computer, or anything else you can think of - to allow them control of the software (and your computer) they sold you, to protect their interests.  Microsoft Windows is the latest to bring this to public awareness.  Our laws protect big-business, not consumer privacy.

ED BOTT’S Microsoft Report
June 27, 2006

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my serious objections to Microsofts latest salvo in the war against unauthorized copies of Windows. Two WINDOWS GENUINE ADVANTAGE components are being pushed onto users’ machines with insufficient notification and inadequate quality control, and the result is a big mess. (For details, see MICROSOFT PRESSES THE STUPID BUTTON.)

Guess what? WGA might be on the verge of getting even messier. In fact, one report claims WGA is about to become a Windows “kill switch” and when I asked Microsoft for an on-the-record response, they refused to deny it.

Last week, a correspondent on Dave Farber’s Interesting People list posted some COMMENTS ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES with Windows OneCare Live. In the middle of the post, he added this tidbit:

I like to review updates before they are installed. The only update that I have not installed is the latest WGA because of the security issues related to it.

I called Microsoft support to see if there is a hidden option to say, “yep, I’ve got updates turned to manual it’s okay.” The rep said, “No and why wouldn’t you want to get the latest updates to Windows.”

I responded with the issues relating to WGA. He spent some time telling me that WGA was a good thing, etc. I reiterated that I have accepted all the updates except WGA and just want to review the updates before they’re installed on my machine.

He told me that “in the fall, having the latest WGA will become mandatory and if its not installed, Windows will give a 30 day warning and when the 30 days is up and WGA isn’t installed, Windows will stop working, so you might as well install WGA now.” [emphasis added]

I’m wondering if Microsoft has the right to disable Windows functionality or the OS as a whole (tantamount to revoking my legitimate Windows license) if I do not install every piece of software that they send it updates.

That canŒt be true, can it? Im always suspicious of any report that comes from a front-line tech support drone, so I sent a note to Microsoft asking for an official confirmation or, better yet, a denial. Instead, I got this terse response from a Microsoft spokesperson:

As we have mentioned previously, as the WGA Notifications program expands in the future, customers may be required to participate. [emphasis added] Microsoft is gathering feedback in select markets to learn how it can best meet its customers’ needs and will keep customers informed of any changes to the program.

That’s it. Thats the entire response.

Uh-oh. Currently, Windows users have the ability to opt out of the Windows Genuine Advantage program and still get security patches and other Critical Updates delivered via Windows Update. The only thing you give up is the ability to download optional updates. Hackers have been working overtime to find ways to disable WGA notification. If WGA becomes mandatory, would it mean that Microsoft could prevent Windows from working if it determines - possibly erroneously - that your copy isnt genuineҔ? Thats a chilling possibility, and Microsoft refuses an easy opportunity to deny that that option is in its plans.

Over at Ed Botts Windows Expertise, Ive been soliciting feedback from Windows users who’ve been burned by WGA. So far, Ive received 20 comments. Here’s a sampling:

· I have an XP Media center with a promise RAID 0 4-disc array. When I installed the WPA it broke the drivers for the array by causing failed delayed writes (half of the array just disapears.) If I do a system restore to before the installation of the WPA everything goes back to working just fine.

· [S]ince installing WPA I’ve had blue screens and a total inability to boot. I had to run the XP repair function to get the computer to boot. I had a damaged boot sector on the hard drive. I am running two drives on a RAID 1 config.

· I purchased a SEALED OEM copy of XP Professional. WGA said the license key was already used. I called MS and they said I should uninstall and buy another copy. I told them I wasnt made of money and hung-up.

· Microsoft rejected the product key that came with the ThinkPad I’m using. I had to call in and they gave me another code to enter which supposedly worked but now I get the blue screen of death about every other time I reboot. Ive also lost all internet connectivity.

· I sent my Compaq Presario notebook for service repair, and it fails the WGA check. I have a legal version of windows xp professional on it. But I have no way to correct this problem.

What’s most disturbing about this whole saga is Microsofts complete lack of transparency on the issue. And before the ABM crowd jumps in with predictable “What did you expect?” comments, let me argue that Microsoft actually has a fairly good track record on transparency issues in recent years. Windows Product Activation is very well documented, and when a similar uproar occurred in 2001, it was squelched quickly by some fairly prominent postings from high-level executives who provided details without a lot of spin. Likewise, the Microsoft Security Response Center has done an exceptional job at providing quick responses to security issues. (Just ask Adam Shostack.)

Currently, no one at Microsoft is blogging about this fiasco. No executive has been quoted on the record about it. There are very few technical details available, and those that have been published are being tumbled through the spin machine and spit out as press releases.

If Microsoft really does plan to turn WGA into a kill switch in September, be prepared for an enormous backlash

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 06/28/06 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Microsoft And Windows
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Bush vs New York Times

Attacks on the New York Times aren’t about national security, they’re about muting criticism.

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig.
ALterNet
June 28, 2006

UPDATE: The GOP will introduce a RESOLUTION to condemn the NEW YORK TIMES for its reporting.

The Bush administration’s JIHAD against newspapers that reported on a SECRET program to monitor the personal-banking records of unsuspecting citizens is more important than the original story. For what the president and his spokesmen are once again asserting is that the prosecution of this ill-defined, open-ended “war on terror” inevitably trumps basic democratic rights in general and the CONSTITUTIONALLY enshrined freedom of the press in particular.

The stakes are very high here. We’ve already been told that we must put up with official lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the unprecedented torture of prisoners of war and a massive electronic-eavesdropping program and other invasions of privacy. Now the target is more basic - the freedom of the press to report on such nefarious government activities. The argument in defense of this assault on freedom is the familiar refrain of dictators, wannabe and real, who grasp for power at the expense of democracy: We are in a war with an enemy so powerful and devious that we cannot afford the safeguard of transparent and accountable governance.

“We’re at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America,” President Bush said Monday.

The “bunch of people” Bush says we are fighting was originally believed to be those behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, specifically Osama bin Laden and his decentralized Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Yet Bush, prodded by the neoconservative clique, quickly expanded this war beyond what should have been a worldwide manhunt for Al Qaeda operatives into an open-ended occupation of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—which, as we know from the Sept. 11 commission report, had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or Sept. 11.

In fact, if the media, or Congress, had aggressively pursued the truth earlier, rather than being overwhelmed by the shock of Sept. 11, anti-U.S. terrorists of every stripe would not now be swarming over Iraq. Nor would the degenerating situation in Afghanistan and the enhanced power of religious fanatics throughout the Mideast, from Tehran to Gaza, pose such threats to peace if a fully informed public had held this president in check. Even today, the Bush administration continues to place the situation in Iraq in the “war on terror” framework, instead of acknowledging the primary role of religious and nationalist passions unleashed by the unwarranted U.S. invasion.

As Bush has continued to stretch it to cover all of his leadership failings, the “war on terror” has become a meaningless phrase, to be exploited for the political convenience of the moment. Terrorism, which should be treated clinically as a dangerous pathology threatening all modern societies, instead has been seized upon as an all-purpose PROPAGANDA opportunity for consolidating this administration’s political power. In such a situation, the press’ role as a conduit of both information and debate is more essential than ever. Freedom of the press, enshrined in our Constitution at a time when our fragile nation was besieged by enemies of the new republic, is not an indulgence to be allowed in safe periods but rather an indispensable tool for keeping ourselves safe. That is just the point that Vice President Dick Cheney, the high priest of excessive secrecy - even in domestic matters, such as refusing to reveal the content of his negotiation with Enron lobbyists in framing the administration’s energy policy - is bent on obscuring.

“Some in the press, in particular the New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult,” said Cheney, all but calling the newspaper traitorous.

How convenient to leave out the Wall Street Journal, which editorially supports the administration but which also covered this latest example of Bush’s abuse of power in its news pages. The administration’s attack on the Times, in fact, is not really about national security, but rather follows a domestic political agenda that requires attacking free media that dare offer criticism.

On Monday, following the pattern, Cheney also attacked the Times’ earlier disclosure that the National Security Agency had simply ignored the legal requirement of court warrants in monitoring telephone calls. “I think that is a disgrace,” he said of the Times winning a Pulitzer Prize for the stories.

What is truly a disgrace, though, is an administration that has consistently deceived the public about its intentions and which continues to shamefully exploit post-Sept. 11 fears to ensure its grip on the body politic.

Robert Scheer is the co-author of THE FIVE BIGGEST LIES BUSH TOLD US ABOUT IRAQ. See more of Robert Scheer at TRUTH DIG.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 06/28/06 •
Section General Reading
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