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Windows Security Program Accused of Changing Update Settings

Windows Live OneCare could be among the root causes of Microsoft's ongoing problems with unwanted automatic updates.

Windows Live OneCare could be among the root causes of Microsoft's ongoing problems with unwanted automatic updates on Windows programs and applications, according to a Windows enthusiast Web Site.

WindowsSecrets.com is reporting that its staff members found that OneCare, an OS security service featuring an integrated protection suite, silently changes Automatic Update settings. In doing this, the program causes the automatic installation of patches followed by an overnight reboot -- mostly at 3 a.m. -- despite every defensive measure a user might take against such a drastic modification.

"Based on our findings, we believe that this is Microsoft's way of telling the IT community what's good for them," said Scott Dunn, associate editor of the newsletter. "It not only updates your system for you but doesn't even tell you it's doing it. It's like they're saying: 'Go ahead and just trust us.'"

Microsoft does a poor job of informing users of the action. The only apparent mention of the forced change is buried deep a "Help" file.

This revelation is the latest chapter in the continuing saga of how Microsoft updates computers. Less than a week ago, Redmond suggested that components outside of Windows, such as foreign applications, were likely responsible for these unwarranted alterations and reboots, which confounded proponents and made critics skeptical. In September, the software giant admitted to tweaking the Windows Update apparatus in various OS versions without letting customers know.

Eric Schultze, chief security architect at Saint Paul, Minn.-based Shavlik Technologies, said that if the OneCare information is confirmed, "Microsoft could be eating crow."

"What this would represent is very poor communication between the OneCare team and the Windows team, and it's inexcusable. At the least they should put out a disclaimer letting customers know upfront and in bold terms about the fact that they were installing and rebooting or that these things can or may happen with the program," Schultze said.

Microsoft said Wednesday that the company was looking into the OneCare issue and reiterated that an ongoing investigation into the larger issue of Windows Automatic Update is still pending.

About the Author

Jabulani Leffall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.

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