WGA anti-piracy mode for Vista softened thanks to Linux and OS X threat?
Unlike the current WGA anti-piracy system in today’s pre-SP1 Vista, which puts Vista into a
‘reduced functionality mode’ only gives the user access to a browser for one hour, effectively locking you out of your PC until a legally purchased key was supplied, the Vista SP1 WGA regime is much more forgiving.
It allows people who’ve likely been using a non-genuine copy of Vista some time now to continue using their computer, their software and hardware, and access their data, albeit with Aero and some other more advanced features disabled, changing the background to include a notification of non-genuine status and reminding users of this on hourly basis with a pop up message.
The newly softened stance is despite Microsoft reporting that Vista’s piracy rate is “less than half that of XP today”, attributed to Vista’s better anti-piracy measures, including preventing the ability of volume license keys to allow the installation without activation, as was the case with Windows XP.
However “two types of known exploits to the Windows Vista activation process” have seen pirated copies of Vista proliferate across the Internet and at markets where pirate software is sold, and these two are being actively detected and marked as non-genuine when updated with Vista SP1.
Users who actively installed a pirate copy of Vista will likely avoid installing SP1 for as long as possible, although users who were unwittingly sold a pirated copy of Vista will find, upon installing SP1, will quickly discover their non-genuine status through the new WGA regime described above and will be offered a copy of Vista Home Premium at US $119, which Microsoft says is less than half the retail cost.
The two current Vista activation exploits are the OEM Bios exploit which helps to mimic “a type of product activation performed on copies of Windows that are pre-installed by OEMs in the factory”, while the second is a “Timer exploit” which resets “the ‘grace time’ limit between installation and activation to something like the year 2099 in some cases”.
Microsoft’s announcement on the WGA changes was a Q&A session with Mike Sievert, Corporate Vice President or Windows Product Marketing.
In explaining the WGA changes, Sievert said that: “Although our overall strategy remains the same, with SP1 we’re adjusting the customer experience that differentiates genuine from non-genuine systems in Windows Vista and later in Windows Server”.
Sievert continued that: “Users whose systems are identified as counterfeit will be presented with clear and recurring notices about the status of their system and how to get genuine. They won’t lose access to functionality or features, but it will be very clear to them that their copy of Window Vista is not genuine and they need to take action”.
So, what else did Sievert say, and how is this also an action to head off the switch to Linux or Mac OS X? Please read onto page 2...
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One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks, including stints as presenter of Ch 10’s Internet Bright Ideas, Ch 7’s Room for Improvement and tech expert on Ch 9’s Today Show, among many other news and current affairs programs.