Windows Genuine Advantage: The Lowdown

Dennis Faas's picture

With Peer to Peer (P2P) networks keeping the piracy market flooded with illegal applications, songs, and movies, Microsoft is making a complicated and confusing attempt to limit rip-offs of its own merchandise through its latest anti-piracy program dubbed, "Windows Genuine Advantage", or "WGA" for short.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the WGA program has attracted much scrutiny from security experts in recent weeks.

So, what's all the Hoopla about?

According to Microsoft's website, the Windows Genuine Advantage (seen next to the smiling, comforted young woman) is in place to assure paying customers that their operating system is legitimate.

In a nutshell: legitimacy guarantees that software is fully supported by Microsoft technical staff, in addition to free downloads, updates, and special offers. (Source:

Sounds like good business sense, so why worry?

Critics of WGA are far from pleased with its auto-install feature, described as a "critical security update" when appearing on many PCs as early as April 25, 2006.

Not only has the update initiated significant issues on many of the computers where it has been installed, but it is also allegedly sending valuable information from those PCs back to Microsoft headquarters.

In essence, many argue that WGA is considered Spyware (or close to it). In a June 8th response to this label, Microsoft defended itself by arguing that Spyware was completely different from WGA because their product is not malicious or deceptive -- but Microsoft representatives stopped short of denying that WGA was soaking up user information for the company's own benefit. (Source:

Blocking WGA with Firewalls

Since WGA is produced by the world's most dominant software company, it is no wonder that it is also especially difficult to remove. However, one of the easiest ways to prevent WGA is by blocking its signal through the use of a firewall.

Users can also set the Automatic Updates control panel to notify once a "critical update" must be provided, but disallow its automatic installation.

WGA can be an annoyance -- mostly through its incessant messages and security warnings -- but there is no reason to suspect Microsoft is hijacking one's system.

At least, not yet, anyway.

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