WGA check false positives plague users

— 4:41 PM on October 5, 2006

Microsoft disclosed yesterday that Windows Vista will include very tough anti-piracy measures, some of which will restrict access to programs on systems running non-genuine software. But those measures raise the question: what will happen to legitimate users victim of false positives? Unfortunately, false positives have already been occurring with Windows XP's existing Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications license checker. According to Ed Bott's blog on ZDNet, a large number of users with genuine Windows XP licenses were tagged as pirates by the app this week, and Microsoft responded to the complaints with the following statement:

Earlier this week one of Microsoft's servers experienced a bug that resulted in an outage of the validation service. As a result, some Windows XP systems incorrectly failed validation and were reported as being non-genuine. The situation was identified and fixed within 24 hours.

Steps are now available on our support forum for customers to correct any problems they are experiencing with this issue. We recognize the inconvenience for our customers and are working to address their specific concerns.

This incident follows numerous other reports of users being wrongly detected as pirates, which Microsoft previously shunned by claiming it found "many" users complaining of false positives were in fact running non-genuine software. However, the company has now shown that its validation checking system is clearly not immune to failure. This fact may result in a growing number of angry users if Microsoft continues to impose stricter anti-piracy measures, since as Ed Bott states in another blog post, the company's WGA software takes a less-than-user-friendly "presumed guilty until proven innocent" approach.
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