Microsoft Expands "Windows Genuine Advantage" Program
by Arie Slob
Hello Windows users,
Last September, Microsoft launched a pilot program called the "Windows Genuine Advantage" Program (I wrote about it in the September 25 Newsletter). According to Microsoft, they were hoping that some 20,000 customers would opt-in to use the program, which basically is a check to see if your copy of Windows XP is genuine.
At the end of last month, Microsoft announced that as of October 17th, well over 825,000 users have opted-in to the program. Now Microsoft is expanding the opt-in program to include Simplified Chinese (PRC, Singapore), Traditional Chinese (Hong Kong), Norwegian and Czech language versions, in addition to English. And to help differentiate the value of genuine Windows from counterfeit versions, Microsoft will make a variety of special software offerings available exclusively to customers who validate as genuine. These offerings include:
I had a chance to put some questions to David Lazar, director of Microsoft's Windows client product management group who is directly responsible for the "Windows Genuine Advantage" (WGA) program.
First I asked David what Microsoft wants to achieve with the license check that is at the core of the "Windows Genuine Advantage" program.
David: "The opt-in pilot for Windows Genuine Advantage is designed to learn more about delivering genuine software to Microsoft customers, combating counterfeit software, and enhancing the value of genuine Windows by differentiating it from counterfeit software. Our research shows that customers want to learn whether or not they have received the software products they have paid for. Our data shows that 23% of Windows users in the US are using non-genuine Windows software, and this number is higher in many countries. It's not fair that this group should be receiving the same benefits as paying customers. Also, many piracy transactions fit the category of counterfeiting, where the seller receives 80-100% of the full price of Windows, and doesn't convey a valid license. This is fraud being perpetrated on users, and we should do everything we can to stop it."
I also asked David why we would be asked to validate our software, even if we are running an activated copy of Windows XP.
David: "It is important to note that customers who have already activated do not need to re-enter their product keys. The activation is automatically detected and respected. For retail activated machines the user proceeds directly to the desired download. Only for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) System Locked Pre-installation (SLP) machines that have never been activated does the user enter their Certificate of Authenticity (COA) key. OEM machines have not been "activated" as far as their product key being entered, so the normal WGA process is for the COA key to be entered at that time. This is a one-time process after which that system is validated as genuine."
The final question I put to David was that if this process would become mandatory to get downloads from Microsoft (right now it is still a pilot program, and can be opted out from), wouldn't this mean that users who are running illegal (counterfeited or otherwise illegal) copies of Windows can no longer get security updates for their system, and wouldn't that make all the recent efforts on Microsoft's part on securing Windows XP be worthless?
David: "We need to be very clear on this point: All users - genuine or not -- are able to receive critical security updates including Windows XP SP2 by enabling the Automatic Updates feature in Windows XP. Also keep in mind that the program is opt-in and only applies to the Download Center, not Windows Update or Automatic Update."
It is fair to point out that at this point the "Windows Genuine Advantage" program is still a pilot program, so changes are being made to it, and (as far as I know) no decision has been made if it will be mandatory in the future. It does seem clear that WGA will only apply to certain downloads ("extra's"), and will never be required to be able to download security updates, which is a good thing.
If you want to try to validate without first finding a download, you can go to the Microsoft How to Tell Web site, and initiate a validation.
If you want to provide feedback, you can do so by using the feedback link below, or by using the Microsoft Download Center Web Site Feedback.
Give your comments on this article.
Microsoft Continues to Focus on Improving Security
This Thursday, at the RSA Conference Europe 2004 in Barcelona, Spain, Rich Kaplan, corporate vice president of the Security Business & Technology Unit at Microsoft, delivered a keynote address in which he provided an update on Microsoft's progress in helping to improve the security for customers worldwide.
Kaplan highlighted Microsoft's technology advancements in providing greater isolation and resiliency to systems to improve their ability to mitigate the impact of malicious code, including the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) last August 2004. According to Kaplan, Windows XP SP2 has been distributed to more than 110 million customers worldwide so far. SP2 provides safer browsing, stronger default security settings and new, automatically installed security features to better protect customers and their computers from hackers, viruses and other security risks.
In response to positive customer feedback, Microsoft is making its Security Bulletin Advanced Notification program publicly available to provide all customers with advanced, monthly general information on security. The purpose of the notification is to assist customers with resource planning for the scheduled monthly security bulletin. Starting in November, Microsoft will publish a general summary of planned security bulletins three business days before each month's scheduled release date, which will occur on the second Tuesday of the month. The information will be available at the Microsoft Security Web site, and will include the number of bulletins that may be released, the anticipated severity ratings, and an overview of products that may be affected. Beginning in December, customers can also sign up on that Web site to receive notifications by e-mail.
Kaplan also noted that over the past year, Microsoft has provided security training to more than 540,000 IT professionals, developers and partners worldwide, including more than 170,000 in Europe alone through events, webcasts and participation in European countries' Microsoft Security Days. In addition, 18 European countries and NATO now participate in Microsoft's Government Security Program (GSP), providing both source access to Windows and Office and technical information to national governments about the Microsoft Windows platform.
More information about Microsoft and its efforts to address computer security can be found at the Microsoft Security Web site.
Give your comments on this article.
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