Hackers Find New Vista Activation Crack

UPDATED 11:00 pm December 8, 2006: Cori Hartje, Director of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative, issued the following statement to BetaNews regarding the activation crack:

"We are actively monitoring these types of piracy and counterfeit situations, and will take action on any Key Management Service (KMS) or Multiple Activation Key (MAK) keys that have been reported as stolen or abused. Microsoft will continue to make investments under the Genuine Software Initiative (GSI) and is committed to engineering world-class anti-counterfeiting technologies in order to make piracy harder and protect customers and channel partners from the various risks associated with counterfeit software."

With all the talk about Microsoft's stepped up efforts to curb piracy through Vista's new activation methods, it may all be for naught after some crafty hackers figured out a way to crack the Vista Activation Server.

Microsoft's new activation policies call for every single copy of the new operating system to be activated. This includes copies purchased as part of the company's corporate volume licensing program, and Microsoft tried to make the process less daunting for IT administrators.

The company created something called the "Key Management Service," which would allow the administrator to activate all the computers in a single swoop. From there, a central computer would maintain all activations for the network.

To prevent piracy, however, the activation is good only for a period of 180 days. After that, the computer would need to reconnect with the KMS to receive another key. This was done to discourage people from attempting to use the KMS to activate their own computers at home.

But it was only a matter of time before hackers figured out how to reproduce a local KMS using a VMware image and a VBS script. From there, as long as the edition of Vista is either Business or Enterprise, the keys generated would successfully activate the operating system

It should be noted that Home and Ultimate editions do no accept KMS keys, and still must use the traditional activation method -- although more secure in Vista -- of calling in directly to Microsoft themselves.

In order for the crack work, when installing Vista, a KMS product key must be used. If the system is ever captured by Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage program, Microsoft would be able to mark it as pirated and deactivate the key.

Second, as mentioned above, the user would need to ensure the KMS server is run every 180 days in order to keep the copy of Vista activated and usable. But regardless of its drawbacks, the new crack still marks yet another shift in the battle between Microsoft and pirates of its software.

Existence of the crack was first reported by Australian technology publication APC on Thursday.

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