Pirates disclose how to activate Windows Vista
11 Dec 2006

A method of authenticating pirated versions of the new Microsoft Windows Vista has been publicly disclosed last week by hackers. The operating system was released for sale to volume license customers on November 30 and incorporates new anti-piracy measures, intended by Microsoft to curb piracy levels. One of the major new features in this respect was a key authentication system, where installations using fake or stolen license keys would be limited in functionality. Pirated copies of Windows Vista began appearing in P2P networks straight after the operation system went to publishing, but these copies were said by Microsoft to be simply late candidate release versions. However, pirate versions of the Enterprise edition started circulations very soon after the full release at the end of November. Now pirates say that they have been able to find a workaround for this versions activation procedure and have released it to the public. The method is an ingenuous one: both Enterprise and Business editions of Vista use a system called Key Management Service (KMS) for bulk activation, as every copy of Vista has to be activated separately. However, Microsoft lets corporate license holders have an in-house activation server that would handle all licensing issues for local client machines without the need to connect directly to Microsoft. Hackers, though, have succeeded in producing an operational standalone KMS that can be used by anyone to authenticate copies of Vista locally, without going through Microsoft. Not all is as good as it seems for pirates, though - this method is not operational on Home and Ultimate editions, which are the ones intended for private users. And even if one succeeded in installing and activating a Business version of Vista, the system would need to be re-authenticated every 180 days and certainly could not pass a Windows Genuine Advantage test. Despite that, news of increasingly sophisticated methods used by hackers to break Vista cannot be good for the software giant, which has recently claimed that Vista could generate $70 billion in revenue and more than 150 thousand new IT jobs in 2007.