Windows Genuine Meltdown
When the servers behind the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation software
stumbled last weekend, users suddenly found their legitimate copies of Windows
XP and Vista flagged as invalid and pirated. For Vista owners, that dropped
their copies of the operating system into reduced functionality mode.
It took Microsoft until about mid-afternoon on Sunday to get WGA running correctly
again. Microsoft Program Manager Phil Liu blogged about the issue and its resolution
The cause of the problem? You guessed it. Simple human error.
"Pre-production code was sent to production servers," Liu writes.
"The production servers had not yet been upgraded with a recent change
to enable stronger encryption/decryption of product keys during the activation
and validation processes. The result of this is that the production servers
declined activation and validation requests that should have passed."
Let this be a lesson. Even the largest, most well-funded software development
efforts can fall victim to something as trivial as deploying non-production
code. What's interesting is that Microsoft had designed its WGA service so that
if the servers were down or inaccessible, Windows continues to run in validated
mode. In this case, however, the servers were running, albeit improperly.
Liu says changes have already occurred in the aftermath of this embarrassing
gaffe: "We have implemented several changes to address the specific issues
that took place over the weekend -- for example we are improving our monitoring
capabilities to alert us much sooner should anything like this happen again.
We're also working through a list of additional changes such as increasing the
speed of escalations and adding checkpoints before changes can be made to production
What do you think of Microsoft's genuine faux pas? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/29/2007 at 1:15 PM