Pesky Messenger Service Disabled in Windows XP SP2

Late last week, America Online acknowledged it taken the drastic and unprecedented step of programming its software to silently turn off a Windows service so that it could stem the tide of spam and security vulnerabilities facing its subscribers.

The Windows Messenger service, enabled by default, allegorically leaves the door wide open for pop-up ads to pester Windows XP and 2000 users, while leaving them at risk of security exploits. Now, Microsoft has weighed in and says it will turn off the service in Windows XP.

Anyone who has seen little gray dialog boxes appear out of nowhere during a Windows session is familiar with the Messenger service whether they know what it is called or not. The Messenger service is an administrative feature rarely used outside the realm of corporate networks, and is not related to the better known Windows Messenger real time communication application.

Advertisers have been misusing the service to the ire of their unwitting victims.

Earlier this month, it was also revealed that the Messenger service contained a flaw, which could lead to a privilege elevation on machines targeted by hackers.

After providing customers with a resource page as well as a tool to eliminate the ads, AOL decided that enough was enough - despite entering into murky legal territory. By making the adjustments to Windows itself, some online pundits have pointed out that AOL has potentially violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Redmond has decided to take a more drastic measure in order to clean up its own mess. At its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft's Neil Charney told the crowd of developers that the obscure service was destined to be turned off in Windows XP Service Pack 2.

To shelter itself from the hailstorm of criticism surrounding well publicized holes in its products, Microsoft has reaffirmed its commitment to security by changing the way it releases fixes, develops code, educates customers and discloses patches.

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