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Microsoft botches 'critical' antipiracy update

Misleading update removed from Microsoft site

An update for Microsoft's antipiracy tool for its Office software suite hit a snag last week when it was distributed too widely and under a 'critical' label that's usually reserved for important software fixes.

Last week, Microsoft said it would add a notification component to Office Genuine Advantage (OGA), which warns people through pop-up messages, dialog boxes and other visual cues if their copy of Office is unlicensed.

OGA was widely launched around October 2006. If the tool identifies a copy of Office as unlicensed, it blocks free downloads from Microsoft's website such as templates, available to customers with valid software.

Microsoft meant to push out the OGA notifications update only to customers in Italy, Spain, Turkey and Chile. However, the update was published on April 15 to users outside of those countries via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), which distributes patches and security updates for the company's server products and other software.

The update was available for about 24 hours before it was removed, according to the WSUS blog. Some users had problems with the tool.

The update was labelled 'critical', as "OGA notifications are designed to alert customers who are using non-genuine software, and are thus more vulnerable to activation exploits and the risks of counterfeit," the blog posting said.

The labelling of the update seems odd considering the trouble Microsoft had with its other pirate software detection tool, Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Notifications. The company got into trouble in 2006 for classifying WGA Notifications, which detects unlicensed Windows operating systems and warns users, as a 'critical' update and bundling it with other true security fixes.

Users complained that the WGA tool did not provide a fix for a security problem, and labelling it as critical was misleading. People can now opt out of downloading WGA, which is designed to nudge those with a rogue version of the company's OS to buy a licensed version.


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