Spyware in MS Streets & Trips and AutoRoute

By unwire, January 3, 2006

Posted on the APRS SIG mailing list today:

Microsoft is using tactics virtually identical to spyware pushers in Streets
2006 and AutoRoute. When you first insert the CD to install the program, an
undisclosed undocumented program is stealth loaded onto your hard disk, even
before the first screen of the install dialog appears.

This program, Microsoft Location Finder, utilizes Internet connections,
either hardwired or WiFi, to attempt to determine your current location and
reports it back to Microsoft. The application attempts to triangulate your
location by monitoring what WiFi hotspots your PC can currently hear. If there
is no WiFi present in the PC, it attempts a whois on the IP address your wired
connection is currently using. The secret placing of this invasive
privacy-invading application on millions of PCs is part of Microsoft’s future
plan for "Location Based Services" which means popping up banner ads
when MS detects that you are within a block or so of a particular business. The
unwitting installation of this program places a 64 MEGABYTE ( !! )
password-protected database of the known locations of hundreds of thousands of
public WiFi hotspots in airports, cafes, Starbucks, etc on your hard disk. (You
can see it in the directory Program FilesMicrosoft Location Finder).  Further, you are recruited as an unwitting
accomplice in updating this database. Every time your GPS and WiFi equipped
laptop passes within range of a new hotspot, it’s coordinates are reported back
to MS via your current Internet connection.

The first indication of the installation of this piece of unwanted crapware
is the appearance of an icon of a curved green arrow pointing into a target in
your Windows System Tray next to the clock.  The first time you run Streets, it produces a
message "We have detected a WiFi connection on this PC. Do you want us to
determine your current location on the map?". Whats wierd is that this
message appears even when there are NO network connections at all active on the
machine.

Even though the install is completely undisclosed, an item IS placed in the
Install/Remove programs applet in the Windows control panel. The uninstall
routine is a COMPLETE SHAM! It removes the systray icon, an .EXE file, and a
couple of documents from the Location Finder directory but leaves 4 DLLs
(program modules) and the 64MB database.

Thinking perhaps it was just a sloppy uninstaller, I erased the remaining
files (especially the space-wasting database) by hand.
Starting Streets afterwards generated several error messages that "program
files were damaged or missing" and requested that the install CD be placed
in the drive so that this thing could be re-installed!!! In other words, even
after the supposed uninstall, Streets is calling components of Location Finder.

After many hours of experimentation, I discovered there is a way to kill
this obnoxious crapware.

  WARNING! This requires editing the Windows
Registry database.
  One
errant keystroke here can totally trash your Windows system.
  Back
up the registry first!

1) Before initially installing Streets & Trips 2006 (or the Euro
equivalent AutoRoute), make sure you have NO network connections of any kind
live. Unplug any ethernet cable and ensure that your WiFi transceiver is turned
off.

2) After the install, immediately go to the Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove
Programs" and "uninstall" Microsoft Location Finder.

3) Locate the directory "Program FilesMicrosoft Location Finder"
and delete it.

4) Click "Start, Run" and enter "regedit" (The Windows
Registry Editor). In Regedit, pull down "Edit, Find" and search for
"Microsoft Location Finder". Keep pressing F3 to find the next
occurrence of this phrase. Delete every item (registry "key") you
find with this string in it.

5) Exit the Registry editor and reboot. Streets should now be able to
startup without Location Finder and without complaining.

Stephen H. Smith    wa8lmf (at) aol.com
EchoLink Node:      14400    [Think bottom of the 2M band]
Home Page:          http://wa8lmf.com

3 Comments

  1. siva says:

    hi stephen,
    great info there…….thanks…. but i tried to install the 2006 version of ms streets and trips i keep getting this message that its installation could not be performed on this system and that an administrative installation has to be performed first
    i have installed a gui software and run a database on the system and lot of loopback adapters and stuff is present ……could that be a reason
    any suggestions pls get back to me ……..thanks and regards…

  2. victor135 says:

    i have the same problem i cant install autoroute because when i try to do it, the installation program leave me a message which says: installation could not be performed on this system and that an administrative installation has to be performed first.

    I dont know what to do

  3. trak y says:

    Probably you have an torrent downloaded autoroute copy.
    Installing the software from the hard disk enables
    autoroute installation program to react with this message “installation
    ould not be performed on this system and that an administrative
    installation has to be performed first”
    What you need to do is to mount the cd’s in a virual drive. The
    installation begins from the first cd and then it asks the user to enter
    the “Run disk” (=second cd) to the drive. It is time to unmount the
    first cd file and mount the second and The installation completes
    without problems.
    and istall from there.
    Try mounting.. It works.
    Useful programs: Daemon Tools, PowerISO 2.9
    Hope being helpful.
    Bye