Microsoft downplays stealth Windows Update file updates

Automatic updates to Windows Updates in August occurred without prior notification to users.

Microsoft sought today to downplay the recent, but unpublicized, automatic update of system files on Windows XP and Vista machines as "normal behavior." ZDNet blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has been writing the last two days about a "stealth" update that occurred on his and other machines in late August, even though those machines are set to not install automatic updates. "I just don't like the idea of having updates foisted upon systems without being aware that they are coming in and having the option to postpone them," he wrote.

A Microsoft spokesperson said, "Windows Update automatically updates itself from time to time to ensure that it is running the most current technology, so that it can check for updates and notify customers that new updates are available."

"The point of this explanation is not to suggest that we were as transparent as we could have been; to the contrary, people have told us that we should have been clearer on how Windows Update behaves when it updates itself," said Nate Clinton, Program Manager Windows Update, in a blog today.

Clinton went on to say, "WU does not automatically update itself when Automatic Updates is turned off, this only happens when the customer is using WU to automatically install upgrades or to be notified of updates." That would explain what happened on the machines that Adrian Kingsley-Hughes observed. According to his blog each were set to be notified of any updates.

For the curious, the updated files on Vista are:

  • wuapi.dll
  • wuapp.exe
  • wuauclt.exe
  • wuaueng.dll
  • wucltux.dll
  • wudriver.dll
  • wups.dll
  • wups2.dll
  • wuwebv.dll
And on XP SP2:
  • cdm.dll
  • wuapi.dll
  • wuauclt.exe
  • wuaucpl.cpl
  • wuaueng.dll
  • wucltui.dll
  • wups.dll
  • wups2.dll
  • wuweb.dll

All nine files are system files related to the XP and Vista versions of Windows Update (WU) itself.

About the author

    As CNET's former resident security expert, Robert Vamosi has been interviewed on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets to share his knowledge about the latest online threats and to offer advice on personal and corporate security.

     

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