Is Microsoft pushing stealth updates to users again? This time, it's toolbars ...

Is Microsoft pushing stealth updates to users again? This time, it's toolbars ...

Summary: 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.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Microsoft
88

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 3.0.126.0) 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!!

Topic: Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

88 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • so don't use it :D

    First thing you do when you install windows is Disable Automatic Updates....

    Don't use internet explorer or microsoft search, job done :D

    Chrome and Google Desktop do a much better job anyway
    dc84
    • Don't use Windows. First thing you should do when you get a new computer..

      ..is install a decent OS.
      AzuMao
      • <a href="http://www.tran33m.com/vb/">forums</a>

        @AzuMao Lets assume that you do have some journalistic skills and this turns out to be true. I don't see why Microsoft needs to fix anything. I'd say they are doing Firefox users a favor but having a Microsoft search toolbar installed. It beats the default that Firefox uses now.
        uouo12
      • RE: Is Microsoft pushing stealth updates to users again? This time, it's toolbars ...

        @AzuMao Why don't you stop being sensationalist and learn the skills of a high school newspaper and actually investigate this issue instead of automatically saying its Microsoft's fault and telling them to fix it? Remember when you reported on Microsoft released patches and it blue screened anyone that had a root kit installed and it turned out it wasn't Microsoft's fault and you had egg all over your face? So do I! Lets assume that you do have some journalistic skills and this turns out to be true. I don't see why Microsoft needs to fix any<a href="http://www.tran33m.com/vb/">t</a>hing. I'd say they are doing Firefox users a favor but having a Microsoft search toolbar installed. It beats the default that Firefox uses now.
        jku1
      • RE: Is Microsoft pushing stealth updates to users again? This time, it's toolbars ...

        @AzuMao if you hate toolbars, know how to uninstall them, but only choose to disable <a href="http://vb.maas1.com/">maas1</a>
        them, isn't that more of your own problem? Laziness and a lack of oversight regarding one's own machines is not a virtue.
        miasa
    • foolish

      @dc84
      After buying a new car, do you rip out the seat belts?
      CrunchyFerrett
      • Of course not

        @CrunchyFerrett
        Microsoft doesn't make cars ...
        BrentRBrian
      • @CrunchyFerrett seat belts don't take over your sofa or endanger you (

        relative to not using them, at least.)

        "Bad analogies are like a banana in a sword fight" - Unknown
        AzuMao
    • re: so don't use it

      @dc84
      "First thing you do when you install windows is Disable Automatic Updates...."
      I agree. And, that is just what I do.
      davebarnes
    • I know a guy who disables WUAU...

      @dc84... Seems to me he is reinstalling Windows every month because he gets PWND everytime.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • Funny...

        @JM1981
        Blame the guy tho and his surfing habits. I have automatic updates disabled and I've YET to be PWNED.
        Wolfie2K3
      • Hmm...

        And I have automatic updates enabled for some of my machines and I've YET to be PWNED, as well.

        Sometimes the user just needs to wisen up and stop complaining.

        Also, if you hate toolbars, know how to uninstall them, but only choose to disable them, isn't that more of your own problem? Laziness and a lack of oversight regarding one's own machines is not a virtue.
        Royal_Knight
      • @Wolfie2K3 &amp; RoyalKnight: agreed one hundred percent..

        ..it's obviously the victim's fault. Anybody who uses Windows and/or IE deserves what they get. Right on.
        AzuMao
    • RE: First thing you do when you install windows is Disable Automatic Update

      @dc84 ,

      No, the first thing you do is insert a Live CD from the Linux distro of your choice, and NUKE WINDOWS!!! You will never have to worry about sneaky M$ updates in the future.
      fatman65535
  • This is not a stealth update

    This is not a stealth update since the update only install on computers that already have the Bing Bar or Windows Live Toolbar.<br><br>Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is such a Mac fanboy: ouch!

    What about Apple trying to sneaking Safari on Windows using Software Update that's install with iTunes and QuickTime?
    illegaloperation
    • Not stealth ?

      @day2die
      Changing the setting of ANY non-Microsoft app off limits.

      Will they provide support for Firefox if the patch goes badly ?
      BrentRBrian
      • It's a plug-in...

        @BrentRBrian
        When you install an update to Flash or Java or any other "universal" plug-in, do you expect it to install it for EACH browser you may have installed? Or just the once and it's available regardless?

        Don't want it? Disable it or better yet, uninstall the bloody thing.
        Wolfie2K3
    • You missed the bit about...

      [i]"But if you only have the toolbar installed in one browser, the update forces its way into Firefox if it installed on the system."[/i]

      I would think that that means that if you had IE with the toolbars installed, then whether Firefox has them or not, that Firefox gets them installed regardless.
      zkiwi
    • Not even close to the same thing.

      @day2die... When Apple's update tool fires off, you have the ability to deselect Safari from the installation options. In this case, had you actually read the article, the update is listed as important. So Automatic Update slips it in. Yes, it is dependent on Bing toolbar being installed, however, it is enabling extensions into Firefox, that the User never asked for it to install.

      I don't install toolbars, so this isn't an issue, however, this isn't the first time MSFT has done this to Firefox. The most recent case of MSFT sneaking in updates into Firefox, enabled the click once vulnerability into Firefox, back in February 2009 with .net 3.5.

      Oh and how is Adrian a Mac Fanboi? 90% of what he blogs about is Windows PC related, and he tends to be the more rounded of bloggers when it comes to tech, viewing any platform as a tool to be used, no shilling for one or the other.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • Fanboi?

      @day2die You've not read much of Adrian's writings I take it?
      Bill4