Active Setup is a feature of Internet Explorer and Outlook, thus, through
"integration", a feature of Windows 98, Windows NT and Windows 2000. What
Active Setup does is this: when you visit a web page belonging to a software
company that uses Active Setup, you are told when there is an update to the
software you are using and asked for permission to automatically download
and install those updates. The updates are "signed", in other words, they
have a security code which assures they have not been altered by hackers or
other "interested parties".
One "minor" exception: If the site holds Microsoft "signed" code, that code will be automatically downloaded and installed on your computer without notice and without your permission. Always. What can that code do? Absolutely anything Microsoft wishes it to do.
Microsoft has been made aware of serious security problems with this approach, but has firmly stated that this feature was included "in order to improve our customers' experience while downloading software from Microsoft Web sites" and that this behavior will not be changed.
More information can be found at Ziff Davis and other sources.
In essence, Microsoft has a "back door" into your system they can use whenever they please. New licensing requirements and procedures coming into effect this year will assure you cannot subvert this, or other, back doors simply by not connecting to the Internet. Microsoft is also suspected of providing "back doors" into Windows for various government agencies.
To make sure you have no legal recourse, Microsoft has provided major backing for the UCITA updates to the Uniform Commercial Code. UCITA specifically allows a software company to invade your system and modify or disable software you are using without your knowledge or permission. UCITA has already been passed (unanimously) by one house of the Virginia legislature and stands to be approved in all states within the next 12 months or so.
©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access
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