I'm getting numerous reports from readers claiming that Microsoft is back to pushing stealth updates to Windows users via Windows Update. This time, the update seems related to its browser toolbars.
Readers started reporting this issue to me yesterday, when Firefox users started noticing that Extensions window was opening up when launching the browser and showing something new - Search Helper Extension.
The update in question is called KB982217 and is labeled "Update for Microsoft Search Enhancement Pack" and is marked as an Important update rather than Optional, which means that Windows Update in the default settings will install it automatically.
So what does this update do? Well, here's what Microsoft has documented for it:
In an Internet browser, you specify a homepage that is not a fully qualified URL. However, Windows Live Toolbar, MSN Toolbar, or Bing Bar may not categorize your homepage correctly. Therefore, the homepage reporting may be generated incorrectly for users who select the Help improve our services option when they install these toolbars.
This knowledge base article says nothing about the update installing extensions or add-on, when in fact an add-on is installed for IE (version 126.96.36.199) and an extension for Firefox (version 1.0). Both can be found at C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Search Enhancement Pack\Search Helper\.
As far as I can tell, this update is only installed if you have either the Bing Bar, Windows Live Toolbar of the MSN toolbar installed (they don't, however, have to be enabled). But if you only have the toolbar installed in one browser, the update forces its way into Firefox if it installed on the system.
This is either sloppy coding, or a sneaky attempt to push a toolbar onto users. Either way, Microsoft needs to pull this update and fix the problem.
Microsoft! FIX IT!!