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Networking Privacy Windows Your Rights Online

How Windows 7 Knows About Your Internet Connection 434

Posted by timothy
from the when-telepathy-fails dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In Windows 7, any time you connect to a network, Windows tells you if you have full internet access or just a local network connection. It also knows if a WiFi access point requires in-browser authentication. How? It turns out, a service automatically requests a file from a Microsoft website every time you connect to any network, and the result of this attempt tells it whether the connection is successful. This feature is useful, but some may have privacy concerns with sending their IP address to Microsoft (which the site logs, according to documentation) every single time they connect to the internet. As it turns out, not only can you disable the service, you can even tell it to check your own server instead."
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How Windows 7 Knows About Your Internet Connection

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  • WHAT! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BigMac7400 (1915854) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:25PM (#36160680)
    Yet another interesting obscure registry key to target for spyware-malware... the registry database is source of all evil on Windows since his creation....
  • Worse on Apple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:26PM (#36160682)

    It's even worse on iPad ::

    Even with push notification/email/find my ipad feature turned off, it still try to connect to any known WIFI network or 3G network behind your back. (Ever wonder why you always get your wifi connection instantly right after waking it up?) You can't disable it unless you put it on an airplane mode.

    Microsoft is still a bit better than Apple here. With Microsoft you can change the ping URL, the same can't be said for iPad.

    iPad is the ultimate spyware.

  • by theurge14 (820596) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:36PM (#36160772)

    So what you're saying is the iPad will search for a Wi-Fi network when you have Wi-Fi enabled, and it will stop searching for one when you turn Wi-Fi off and/or Airplane Mode on?

    What exactly is the problem?

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:42PM (#36160824)

    Seriously, I know it's hip to hate MS, but why pretend that this is spyware? It's a very nice feature. Whenever I'm traveling and trying to connect to my company VPN from a hotel or airport or restaurant or whatever, it lets me know immediately if I need to open my browser to do so. Back in the XP days, I would just spend a few minutes wondering if I mistyped the WPA key before figuring it out.

    It's not like there's any personal info being transmitted. All they know is that a computer running W7 has connected to the internet with a given IP address. Not exactly the most useful information. The logs are probably only kept to help them debug the service.

    You laugh at people who get tricked by those "Your computer may be broadcasting an IP address!" malware banners. Why complain about this?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:45PM (#36160862)

    why complain.. cause they can... It is how they define their existance.

  • Re:So what... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:46PM (#36160870)

    http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=9752344&tstart=0#9752344
    http://www.apple.com/library/test/success.html [apple.com]

    those who have privacy concerns for this , no doubt happily use an iphone all day long....

    They can't possibly just have a privacy concern you either agree with, disagree with, or don't care about. No, no, no that's not how we do things around here. There has to be something wrong with them too. We're trying to imply that there has to be some flaw, something wrong with someone who takes a pro-privacy position.

    Your suggestion that they'd happily use another device with privacy concerns of its own would mean they're hypocrites. Yes, that will do. We'll matter-of-factly portray pro-privacy as the position of hypocrites. The very best thing about this is that it's all about emotional appeal so it's difficult to reason against it.

    So difficult, in fact, that sooner or later you'll start sincerely spewing the same bullshit yourself. 'Course you won't have much time left for actually explaining why you disagree with a pro-privacy position, but for you I suppose that has its advantages. Ad hominems are great fun, aren't they?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:46PM (#36160872)

    So it connects to the Wifi networks you've previously setup - and you can easily tell it not to on a per-network basis. You can also easily turn off Wifi and/or 3G, independent of Airplane mode. What exactly is the problem here? You've described how pretty much every Wifi-enabled device works.

    This article is about something else - not how Microsoft connects to Wifi routers, but how it decides if you have an "Internet connection" or not - in other words, does the router you're connected to actually provide access to the public Internet. I don't find a big problem with how Microsoft does this - it's fairly convenient, and for those of us who don't want this it's possible to deactivate it.

  • by clang_jangle (975789) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:47PM (#36160884) Journal
    Because remembering to type "man" in front of the program name to discover what files configure it is just so horribly difficult. And then typing "vim .config", dear lord the TORTURE .!

    Frankly, what CLI phobia tells the world is that *you* think you're an idiot.
  • Re:Windows (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpectreBlofeld (886224) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:48PM (#36160886)

    Are you serious? All you have to do is look at his posting history to determine that he is in fact probably *not* an astroturfing shill. Paranoid much?

    That said, I thought this was obvious. The very first time I got that 'no Internet access' message, I reasoned that Windows had to determine this by connecting to a known server, certainly a Microsoft one. It's the same troubleshooting step that I take myself when diagnosing a connection failure - I login to the router and use its tools to ping google or something (to eliminate computer configuration problems).

    This shouldn't be surprising, or particularly important.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:48PM (#36160894)

    privacy concerns? they know your IP from windows update!

  • Privacy conerns? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:58PM (#36160964)

    I'm all for privacy, but what is the concern with this feature? Nobody has said that it includes any identifying information in the request, so the only thing Microsoft knows is that someone behind that IP is running Windows. They can't track you (there's no way of knowing that a request the next day from a different location is from the same copy of Windows) and there's no way to map a request to a particular person or computer, so I'm struggling to think of any way the data could be used maliciously.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @08:59PM (#36160966) Journal

    Oh please! I can make that into a little .reg file and go "See this thing? Go clicky clicky and reboot" and its done, period, the end. Just because YOU don't know how to make a .reg file doesn't mean the giant clusterfuck that is Linux CLI (seriously even OS fricking 2 has a solid API by now, having drivers break every time Torlvalds gets a bug up his ass is inexcusable) is in ANY way shape or form comparable.

    I get can have a machine spend years without needing a SINGLE line of CLI, ever. Can YOU do that? Try this experiment if you think Linux is ready for the desktop: Remove ALL shells. C'mon, Linux is modular, yes? Then remove the shell or mod them down so you can NOT use them! I bet the machine won't even make 6 months, and you sure as hell won't be updating the thing, because without CLI Linux falls down like a house of cards.

    Just face the fact that Linux is a SERVER OS, with millions being spent on SERVER tools, and the GUI is an afterthought at best. Sound breaks? Bash, Wireless fucks up? Bash. Video problems? Bash. Hell the answer to EVERY question in Linux is bash. Which is fine if you're an admin, CS grad, or geek with more time than money. For everyone else? News Flash: They ain't touched a CLI in 10 years and they sure as hell ain't about to start now. You show them a command prompt and they think "rinky dink Mickey Mouse OS" and frankly they are right. You should NEVER need CLI on a modern OS. The fact that Linux can't live without it just shows how far behind it is in the desktop arena. Embedded and server its great, desktop is shit.

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @09:00PM (#36160984)

    I'll bite

    A) Windows
    A1- Here's the doc
    A2- type regedit
    A3- change the key as indicated
    Done !

    B) Linux
    B1- look for the doc
    B2- open a terminal
    B3- sudo
    B3b- type in credentials
    B4- open the file
    B5- edit as per doc, being careful of where you add your line, misspellings

    that's already a few more steps and more possible mistakes... but now the real fun begins:

    B6- find out the doc was only good for Horny Huckster (which is 9.7), you have 10.5 (which is ... Priapic Prong ? maybe), look again
    B7- don't find any doc you're 100% sure is germane to your setup/issue
    B8- try a few, fail
    B9- ask on the forums
    B10- get shot down as a noob who can't even search for an answer nor ask a question right, 'coz everybody knows the right term is NCSI.

    I'm exaggerating a bit, but this happens more often than not, and is the main reason why I'm still using windows. Linux mostly works out of the box, but any issue is hard to find docs or support for. In my experience, issues no longer happen as early (drivers are OK, installs have been auto-completing for me for a couple of years), but more advanced stuff is still very badly documented nor version-ed.

    Example of cases this happened to me over the last year:
    clean up the grub2 boot menu. Couldn't do it in the end, still had 3 choices for Windows (only 1 installed), one for my unbootable data partition... did find where to get rid of older linux kernels
    setup RDP server
    get rsync to work for NTFS to NTFS backups

    goodbye karma ....

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @09:14PM (#36161068) Homepage Journal

    Alright, I give up, you win. Linux i indeed a server operating system. And, the primary server I'm interested in is the Xserver. It fits beautifully onto my desktop screen, where I can play games, watch flash video in full screen, listen to music, browse the intartubez, do some serious computing, and read geeknewz.

    WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! LINUX IS A SERVER OS!!!

  • by oakgrove (845019) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @09:24PM (#36161146)
    My issue with the registry is it's lack of comments and relatively non-intuitive naming scheme. Even gconf-editor in gnome which reminds me a lot of regedit has comments. When I want to configure something textually, I just go to my home directory in the file manager, and look around for a file that is named something similar to the program I want to configure excepting being preceded with a "dot", i.e., a dot file and that's it. Just edit that file. It will probably be liberally commented so it's really not that hard to figure out what you're doing. For system wide config, look in the /etc directory. Same deal just without the dots.
  • CLI vs. Registry (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zooblethorpe (686757) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @09:29PM (#36161192)

    Oh please! I can make that into a little .reg file and go "See this thing? Go clicky clicky and reboot" and its done, period, the end. ... Then remove the shell or mod them down so you can NOT use them! I bet the machine won't even make 6 months, and you sure as hell won't be updating the thing, because without CLI Linux falls down like a house of cards.

    While I understand your point, and your frustration about the state of the various GUI environments for Linux, I really don't think that comparing a .reg file (and thus the Windows Registry) against the various Linux shells illustrates the shortcomings you think it does. For one, any CLI script could very well be turned into exactly the kind of clicky clicky executable file you mention -- with the added benefit that a Linux distro probably wouldn't need to be rebooted. Putting your metaphorical shoe on the other foot, I could just as easily say:

    Then remove the registry or mod it down so you can NOT use it! I bet the machine won't even make 6 months, and you sure as hell won't be updating the thing, because without the registry Windows falls down like a house of cards.

    If the CLI in and of itself is such the charlie foxtrot, why is it that Windows has been adding more and more CLI functionality with each iteration?

    You should NEVER need CLI on a modern OS. The fact that Linux can't live without it just shows how far behind it is in the desktop arena. Embedded and server its great, desktop is shit.

    I assume here that by "modern OS" you mean "modern desktop OS", yes? If so, it's easy enough to run a desktop Linux distro without ever touching the CLI -- Ubuntu and Canonical have seen to that, among others. But if you really want to get in there and get your hands dirty with some power user customizations, sure -- you're going to need to use the CLI, whether you're running a Linux distro, Mac OS, or even Windows.

    Cheers,

  • by 3vi1 (544505) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @09:33PM (#36161220) Homepage Journal

    >> Oh please! I can make that into a little .reg file and go "See this thing? Go clicky clicky and reboot"

    The fact that you instinctively think such a thing needs a reboot proves how well Windows has conditioned you to accept your Stockholm Syndrome..

    BTW, the people in Linux that are going to the shell are doing power-user stuff (like Windows users who take advantage of powershell). You can get by without it: my kids and my parents have used Linux for years and have never *ever* used the shell. Swear To God (I keep them on stable releases, and there are no viruses to screw up their wireless, video, etc.).

    How many Linux powered devices (ex. Android, Tivo, etc) are there in the world where the user has never touched a shell? Use of a shell all depends on how much you want to bend a system to your will. Microsoft didn't add powershell to Windows because shells are pointless.

  • by Xtifr (1323) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @09:50PM (#36161354) Homepage

    I get can have a machine spend years without needing a SINGLE line of CLI, ever. Can YOU do that?

    My brother's logged over two years running Ubuntu without ever going near the shell, so, yes. Nor, before you ask, have I been forced to come over and do CLI-based maintenance for him. He did the whole thing, from installation on, by himself with no CLI involved at any point.

    Remove ALL shells.

    And it won't boot--init runs shell scripts (as does cron). But that's different from the user not running a CLI. On any vaguely modern Linux, the user is "forced" to use the CLI about as often as a windows user is "forced" to use regedit, but, unlike regedit, the CLI is actually useful, fast, and efficient if you do decide to learn to use it.

  • by epyT-R (613989) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @09:55PM (#36161394)

    editing the registry using the built-in ms tools is a joke.. it literally is like searching for a needle that might not even be there..

    I get can have a machine spend years without needing a SINGLE line of CLI, ever. Can YOU do that? Try this experiment if you think Linux is ready for the desktop: Remove ALL shells. C'mon, Linux is modular, yes? Then remove the shell or mod them down so you can NOT use them! I bet the machine won't even make 6 months, and you sure as hell won't be updating the thing, because without CLI Linux falls down like a house of cards.

    since when is CLI bad? no, you just don't care to learn it. fine. that doesn't mean it sucks or is backward. guis suck for some tasks too.

    at least linux HAS a decent cli to fall back on.. break windows enough and you might as well just reinstall..and we all know how much of a pain it is to rebuild a complex windows setup from scratch..long gone are the days when we could just put binaries in arbitrary directories...now tons of dlls have to be registered to the right GUIDs (talk about a stupid system) that indicate no relevance to anything. user paths are ridiculously long. instead of /home, it's c:\users\\appData\hiddenthis\locked that. Don't get me started about the unmanageable update system that gives no real details of what's being patched or why without digging through technet..hey wait, this is what ms users complain about having to do with linux: read the docs.

    god help you if windows update breaks on your computer leaving you with a cryptic log file and NO real documentation about it besides some half-assed help sites on the internet where everyone's guessing anyway. if you do find a solution, more often than not, guess what? you're told to open a cmd.exe as the localSystem account! instead of that being a sudo away, it's "download psexec.exe and type this blahblah". serious network issues? netsh.exe. linux is an example of a cli done right.. windows is an example of it done wrong. the fact it's broken and the fact that people still need to access it to shore up the GUI speaks volumes. CLI is relevant today and it isn't going anywhere.

    Just face the fact that Linux is a SERVER OS, with millions being spent on SERVER tools, and the GUI is an afterthought at best. Sound breaks? Bash, Wireless fucks up? Bash. Video problems? Bash. Hell the answer to EVERY question in Linux is bash.

    in windows, when wireless fucks up? try this driver or that one.. oh it still wont stay connected? oh well. read the event logs? oh they don't tell you anything interesting besides the fact the driver stopped with a hex error code you MIGHT find info on if you're lucky? video problems? get the latest drivers? oh they still fucked up your game or autocad? grab the latest ati hotfix..did that solve it? good..oh wait, now your other 3d app isn't working right? linux has similar problems, but it has nothing to do with it's CLI.. problems like this have to do with shitty drivers. blame the vendors, not the os. in the case of logs, at least linux gives you the opportunity to easily enable and search very verbose logs if necessary to get to the bottom of the issue.. you can't do that with windows unless you plan to run the debug version, complete with external slave machine as kernel debugger.

    Which is fine if you're an admin, CS grad, or geek with more time than money. For everyone else? News Flash: They ain't touched a CLI in 10 years and they sure as hell ain't about to start now. You show them a command prompt and they think "rinky dink Mickey Mouse OS" and frankly they are right. The fact that Linux can't live without it just shows how far behind it is in the desktop arena. Embedded and server its great, desktop is shit.

    last I checked, most CS grads make more than most of the individuals who fall into that 'everyone else' category. 'everyone else' doesn't do what CS grads do. the fact is that there are plenty of functions

  • Re:Windows (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Luckyo (1726890) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @10:05PM (#36161460)

    Google makes most of their money off giving their users as little privacy as possible so their targeted ads become even more valuable to advertisers.

    Microsoft makes most of their money by making people and organisations pay for using their software. They could care less about digging clients private information. Bing is a bit of a different story, but bing is just a small division inside microsoft that has very little connection with windows division, which is what we're talking about here.

    Aforementioned difference in income models makes for all the difference in the world when it comes to being a threat to privacy.

  • by ToasterMonkey (467067) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @10:07PM (#36161480) Homepage

    My issue with the registry is it's lack of comments and relatively non-intuitive naming scheme. Even gconf-editor in gnome which reminds me a lot of regedit has comments. When I want to configure something textually, I just go to my home directory in the file manager, and look around for a file that is named something similar to the program I want to configure excepting being preceded with a "dot", i.e., a dot file and that's it. Just edit that file. It will probably be liberally commented so it's really not that hard to figure out what you're doing. For system wide config, look in the /etc directory. Same deal just without the dots.

    Making it more user friendly is sort of against the whole point. It's an interface designed for programatic manipulation, like XML for example.

    Your problems should be addressed with online documentation in the application layer, not in the backend configuration store which should be clean and concise for programatic access. The behavior of a setting will depend on the version of application code you're running, and face it, the documentation you get is going to be targeted at developers wherever you actually find it, because these interfaces are not designed for end users.

    If a program leaves end users to deal directly with configuration data, it is just broke. For every XML/registry complaint I hear, I can find one application that _fails_ at usability.

  • by oakgrove (845019) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @10:19PM (#36161564)

    Making it more user friendly is sort of against the whole point. It's an interface designed for programatic manipulation, like XML for example.

    That should only be true if I never have to access the registry at all. This story is about a configuration that can only be changed by editing the registry or clicking on a .reg file that directly manipulates said registry. Your point falls flat.

  • by internettoughguy (1478741) on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @10:30PM (#36161624)

    Saying the windows registry is a "central mechanism for configuring OS directives", is like saying that dumping all your papers in the middle of your office floor is a centralized filing system.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 17, 2011 @11:08PM (#36161918)

    Today you're worried about a stupid little feature in Windows. Tomorrow you'll be worried your boss at work is trying to beam thoughts into our head. Ten years later, we'll be convinced the shadow government is trying to kill you.

    Ok, it probably won't get that bad, but at the end of the day it does expose how much of a clown you are for overdramatizing things.

  • by Fwipp (1473271) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @12:42AM (#36162404)

    You need Google to figure out what file might have the proper setting under Linux, but you know
    "REG ADD HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\NlaSvc\Parameters\Internet /v EnableActiveProbing /t REG_DWORD /d 0" without looking it up?

  • Re:Windows (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @02:13AM (#36162798)

    You do know there are companies that sell Linux products, including Linux support, right? You can shill anything that makes someone money. Shit, you can shill free stuff you developed for ego gratification if you really want.

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