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Microsoft explains stealth Windows updates

Posted on Friday, September 14 2007 @ 19:45:54 CEST by

A few hours ago I reported that Microsoft was caught installing updates on Windows systems without the user's consent. The firm has published an article about the stealth Windows updates on one of its many blogs.

Nate Clinton, Program Manager at Windows Update, writes:
So what is happening here? Windows Update is a service that primarily delivers updates to Windows. To ensure on-going service reliability and operation, we must also update and enhance the Windows Update service itself, including its client side software. These upgrades are important if we are to maintain the quality of the service.

Of course, for enterprise customers who use Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or Systems Management Server (SMS), all updating (including the WU client) is controlled by the network administrator, who has authority over the download and install experience.

One question we have been asked is why do we update the client code for Windows Update automatically if the customer did not opt into automatically installing updates without further notice? The answer is simple: any user who chooses to use Windows Update either expected updates to be installed or to at least be notified that updates were available. Had we failed to update the service automatically, users would not have been able to successfully check for updates and, in turn, users would not have had updates installed automatically or received expected notifications. That result would not only fail to meet customer expectations but even worse, that result would lead users to believe that they were secure even though there was no installation and/or notification of upgrades. To avoid creating such a false impression, the Windows Update client is configured to automatically check for updates anytime a system uses the WU service, independent of the selected settings for handling updates (for example, “check for updates but let me choose whether to download or install them”). This has been the case since we introduced the automatic update feature in Windows XP. In fact, WU has auto-updated itself many times in the past.



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