Feeds

Windows ID numbers – how they work

The strange tale of the bug Microsoft has been calling a useful feature...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Further details of the identification system used in Windows 98 registration have emerged. In the past few days it has been revealed (see earlier story) that data gathered during the registration process gives Microsoft the means to track both individual users and the documents they produce across the Internet. Each copy of Windows has its own registration number, and during online registration the user is asked to fill in personal details, including name, address and class of user. The registration also produces a hardware audit of the local machine, but the user can decline to send this to Microsoft if they want. In addition, however, machines with an Ethernet adaptor present will send a unique hardware identification number, whether or not the user declines to send hardware audit information. Microsoft yesterday described this as a bug in the software, but the company's privacy policy, parts of which were published here in yesterday's story, makes it clear that it's no bug -- it's quite intentional, and Microsoft has been upfront about it (albeit in a document hardly anyone's going to bother reading). The number is used to generate unique identification numbers for Microsoft Office documents created on the machine. These numbers are embedded in the documents themselves, which means they can be 'fingerprinted' -- ever send somebody a file anonymously? Maybe you didn't after all. If the machine doesn't have an Ethernet adapter, a dummy number is used. This is -- allegedly -- common to all non-networked Windows 98 machines, so it shouldn't be possible to use it to trace documents. But if the mechanisms for processing unique identification numbers exist, then clearly Microsoft is going to make the numbers unique -- unless the appalling publicity puts it off the idea. A unique number system, quite possibly incorporating the Pentium III identifier, is an obvious next step for Windows 2000, particularly as Microsoft wants to introduce universal registration, or possibly even the infamous 'software rental' model by that point. But the exposure of the current tracking system seems to have torpedoed that plan for the moment. Microsoft yesterday said the Windows 98 identification system certainly won't be used in Windows 2000. But we'll all have to watch the process that is in there very closely, just in case. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.