Microsoft blames human error for WGA glitch

Microsoft blames human error for WGA glitch
Microsoft blames human error for WGA glitch 

By Nancy Gohring
IDG News Service
August 29, 2007

Microsoft blamed human error for a Windows Genuine Advantage problem 
that identified legitimate Windows users as pirates last week.

"Nothing more than human error started it all," Alex Kochis, senior 
product manager for Windows Genuine Advantage at Microsoft wrote on the 
company blog Tuesday night. New software was accidentally loaded onto 
the live servers running the system, he said. That ultimately caused the 
servers to decline activation and validation requests that were good, he 

While Microsoft quickly noticed the problem and rolled back the changes 
within a half hour, the problem continued to affect the validation 
service, he said. The activation process was fixed in that time frame, 
he said.

The company is implementing some changes to make sure a similar incident 
doesn't happen again. It is improving monitoring in order to find out 
sooner if there is a problem, he said. Microsoft is also adding 
checkpoints that should prevent accidental changes to the servers.

Kochis' explanation is fine but the incident is still troubling, said 
Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. "I think it's 
unsettling for people when it doesn't validate," he said.

While it's great that Microsoft has put some new procedures in place, 
Cherry was surprised that it was even "feasible" for someone to 
accidentally load the wrong code into the live environment. "It just 
raises the question of what other things have they not done," he said.

In his blog post, Kochis clarified that an existing policy will 
automatically validate all users if the WGA servers are down but that in 
this case, the servers weren't down, so that policy didn't kick in. With 
that policy in place, Cherry wonders why Microsoft didn't just take the 
servers down while they were diagnosing and fixing the problem so that 
legitimate users wouldn't continue to have issues.

The problem began on Friday evening and lasted through Saturday 
afternoon. During that time, some users incorrectly failed the 
validation process, leaving them unable to use certain features 
including Windows Aero, Windows ReadyBoost, and some features of Windows 
Defender and Windows Update. Affected users also saw a message in the 
corner of their screen that said "This copy of Windows is not genuine."

WGA has been criticized since its unveiling in 2005. The system, which 
works for Windows XP and Vista users, is meant to help Microsoft disable 
software pirates, but some users say it's cumbersome. In addition, 
Microsoft faces two class action suits that characterize WGA as spyware 
and cite concerns over how Microsoft uses data it collects about users 
through the program.

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