December 14, 2006 11:12 AM PST

Microsoft tries to stop Vista piracy monster

Microsoft has issued an update to Windows Vista that's intended to stop a piracy monster.

The software maker said Thursday that the update is aimed at thwarting a technique that was letting some people use pirated versions of the operating system without going through the software's built-in product activation. Microsoft has dubbed the approach "frankenbuild" because it works by combining test versions of Vista with the final code to create a hybrid version.

Vista's last mile

"Windows Vista will use the new Windows Update client to require only the 'frankenbuild' systems to go through a genuine validation check," Microsoft said on its Windows Genuine Advantage program blog. "These systems will fail that check because we have blocked the (product) keys for systems not authorized to use them."

Although Vista was only released to businesses last month--and won't hit retail shelves until late January--it has been making the rounds on the Internet, and there have been several reported hacks to bypass its built-in security mechanisms.

A second known issue, Microsoft said, involves using virtualization technology in conjunction with the mechanism Microsoft uses to allow large businesses to activate multiple copies of Vista.

"Piracy is evolving and has made the expected jump from Windows XP to Windows Vista," David Lazar, director of Genuine Windows, told CNET "We are already starting to see some workarounds to the Vista licensing requirements."

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In a statement, the software company said it hoped the actions would help discourage people from trying to bypass its security mechanisms.

"Microsoft hopes that by taking this action now, we can send a message to counterfeiters and would-be counterfeiters, and help protect our legitimate customers from being victimized by further distribution of these tampered products," the company said.

Microsoft has been more aggressively targeting pirates over the past two years, including a stepped-up program for checking to make sure software is properly licensed. With Vista, software that doesn't pass such authentication will go into severely reduced functionality after 30 days. At that point, only the Web browser will work and then only for an hour at a time.

In addition to that reduced-functionality mode, users can also still boot into Windows "safe mode." That allows full access to data and applications, but offers limited screen resolution, fewer colors and prevents the use of most third-party software drivers.

While Thursday's update addresses only the "frankenbuild," Lazar said Microsoft is also working on a method to counteract the other hack, which uses virtualization and Microsoft's Key Management Service.

"The update that we are releasing today does not specifically address that, but we are working on an update that will specifically address the KMS workaround," Lazar said.

Vista represents Microsoft's strongest technical effort yet to build antipiracy features into its software. In addition to the activation requirements, some features within the operating system require the software to be validated as genuine. Those include the Windows Defender spyware fighter, Aero user interface and ReadyBoost, a technology that uses USB flash drives as added system memory.

"Vista is the hardest system to pirate that we have yet released," Lazar said.

See more CNET content tagged:
piracy, virtualization, workaround, software company, Microsoft Windows Vista


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Don't you worry Microsoft.
I don't intend to steal, buy, or use Vista.

Personally I think Vista is a kludge. I really think it's time for Microsoft to focus on creating a new OS instead of trying to fix the POS that is Windows.

(Just for the record I didn't say Windows sucks I said it's a POS. I also didn't make any comments on Linux, BSD, or MacOS X.)
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What, Me Worry? (Alfred. E. Neumann)
Your post reminds me of the Zune "review" I read somewhere (was it CNet?) in which the self-styled reviewer frankly admitted to never having used a Zune or having done anything with it except to momentarily hold it his hand. Oh, he was certain that Zune much so that the idea that it might not actually suck scared him so bad he refused to even power the Zune on. But this didn't stop him from "reviewing" it--oh, no...;)

I, for instance, do not intend to steal, buy, or use OS X, but I hardly think that qualifies me to "review" OS X, do you? It also doesn't entitle me to say "I think OS X is a POS," because obviously if I have little to no experience with OS X even *I* know I'm unqualified to make such a statement. With your reported experience with Vista, likewise you are not qualified to have any "thoughts" about Vista, one way or the other, it seems to me.

You might want to consider that opining on one's ignorance by criticizing something you know nothing about is hardly the way to win friends or to influence associates. Good way to lose them, though...;)
Posted by Walt Connery (89 comments )
Link Flag
what a change....denigrating Windows without lauding a competing OS...are you sick man?
Posted by dragonfly8610 (49 comments )
Link Flag
Vista line
The attempt comes surprisingly late considering the huge anticipation....hope that Microsoft is all geared up this time!
Posted by shekharwalter (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The only thing they are geared up for is the accounting dept
To rake in all the money from the upgrade.

The rest will be business as usual.

They have not changed in 20yrs what makes you thing this might be it.
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
Link Flag
Good Luck...
...For ever measure there is a counter-measure.

I suggest using WGA to completely flush the hard drive of any computer that fails your WGA check ;)

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What next MS?
What's to stop someone from using a frankenbuild and then changing the key in the registry that is used for genuine validation to something that the system will accept? Hmmm?

The frankenbuild hack is so simple that they may as well have not put any activation in at all. Now that pirates know it's tied to just two files in the OS, it's only a matter of time before they figure the whole thing out and engineer a permanent way around it.
Posted by Methuss (101 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: What next MS?
Well, although I don't blame MS for trying to protect their business interests, I'm sick and tired of what people who have legitimately purchased the operating system are forced to do.

With that in mind, the next system I purchase for myself will be another Mac to supplement my Powerbook. I'm fed up with this garbage from Microsoft.

Just the other day, my Sis-in-Law comes to me saying her new laptop is acting a "bit strange". I look and it's the WGA component that's doing it - popping up saying it's a possible fraudelant copy of Windows. Come to find out, her date was off by a year or two into the future.

Grant it, that the date was off was a problem in itself, but it didn't make her (or me since I ordered it) a thief - yet I had to jump through hoops to make the blasted thing work properly again - something I should have NEVER had to waste my time on.

Next desktop will be a Mac Mini - no question in my mind. Microsoft has some reasonably good products, but I'm done putting up with the anti-piracy garbage when I've done nothing wrong.

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Link Flag
Yet another reason to go Linux--Yeah!
Open source says it all. Don't worry Microsoft, you are just continuing your best efforts to push would-be Vista installed sites to go the open source route with your continuing cloogey efforts to combat piracy. And by the way, the best programmers are not in Redmonton. They are elsewhere probably working on the next 'fix' to your software's low adoption rate!
Posted by lsk040365 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What exactly your point?
Are you suggesting that all those "would-be Vista sites" are mostly thieves and they should go to Linux, because MS is trying to combat the piracy?

Also, if the best programmers are working on reverse engineering Vista copy protection, they supposedly are not working on improving Linux either.

Software piracy is a big business and apparently growing. Hence the scale of efforts and level of applied brain power.
Posted by Ice Moose (28 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah, to go to the thieves world
Can't steal Windows? Then why not steal Linux for free, LOL.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Link Flag
Linux for me in 2007
Spot on point ? XP is my last Microsoft OS, as Ubuntu is my next permanent OS in just three weeks. There's only one Windows program that I rely on, and I can virtualize it. So Goodbye to all the emotional, technical, and verbal baggage that is all Windows, all the time.
Posted by zridling (2 comments )
Link Flag
You're all a bunch of losers
You're all a bunch of ABM losers. Stop bashing and get some real work done before you get Bangalored. Idiots.
Posted by Koo Breez (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You add sooo much to the discussion. Not
Please leave.
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
Link Flag
You're all a bunch of losers
You're all a bunch of ABM losers. Stop bashing and get some real work done before you get Bangalored. Idiots.
Posted by Koo Breez (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So what does that make you?
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
You can't even figure out why you are double posting.
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
Link Flag
Tattoo Barcode on all users....
We all agree with the 800 pound gorilla Microsoft that it is in all of our best interests to embed DRM and Antipiracy measures to send usage info back to Redmond or just record all keystrokes.
We agree so much so that Microsoft should lobby for an amendment to the DMCA to tattoo barcodes on everybody and if if Microsoft doesn't have your personal information tied to the barcode and payment for licenses then the software won't work and will notify Homeland Security.

Now for the real opinion, M$ is already making more money than God even while a small portion of their product is pirated. Are consumers getting rewarded for having to put up with all this BS SPP activation phone home DRM by lower prices, NO! Why won't they lower the cost since they are going to have presumably less pirated versions, pure unadulterated greed.
MS is getting fat and greedy and is going to drop dead chasing the ice cream truck.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good one Fred
Love it.
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
Link Flag
They're squirting the ice cream truck. :)
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
The cost of piracy
Shame to waste tallent on those who don't appreciate good intentions.Microsoft is just trying to protect their own property but the cost is shoulderd by the users of this tech.A few nasty persons out there would try and cheat the system by stealing this tech for what? surely they can afford the cost of the op sys,with their tallent and effort put in a positive directive,they could make a good product even better.Effort would not then be wasted on protecting investments and would be put to less costly software.I am convinced that the quality would also profit as an end result.Terry
Posted by curioone (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The cost of piracy
Shame to waste tallent on those who don't appreciate good intentions.Microsoft is just trying to protect their own property but the cost is shoulderd by the users of this tech.A few nasty persons out there would try and cheat the system by stealing this tech for what? surely they can afford the cost of the op sys,with their tallent and effort put in a positive directive,they could make a good product even better.Effort would not then be wasted on protecting investments and would be put to less costly software.I am convinced that the quality would also profit as an end result.Terry
Posted by curioone (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So let me see if I got this right.
You think Microsoft would make better software if it wasn't for pirates passing around their software and forcing them to spend time on anti piracy methods.

Well then they should go OpenSource and then they wouldn't have this issue.

Also what about the versions before WinXP that had no anti piracy that were crap.

By what standards do you say Microsoft makes good software?

Have you tried other options?

If not why not?
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
Link Flag
it sounds like you believe what you said
If you really believe what you said then I pose you this. Before Linux became more main-stream, what OSwas out there? Windows 95? 98? <eeek> ME??? or better still NT? OMG, they had total control over the market and yet M$ did nothing. Linux, BeOS, BSD were being used by those of us that are technical, but not too many 'average' users were capable of making it work. M$ knew this, and they were not worried. So the consumer and corporate America were handed the load of goods mentioned above. The vast multitudes of hackers out here that have worked hard to plan, develope and implement some of the finest software in the world have changed all of that. Now MS is still the dominant force, not due to better software, but due to their legacy of shackling people though OEM roll outs of OS's. People are generally lazy and want what is 'just there'. it's easy to plug a computer in and let the virus' take over, what's hard is actually learning and then making that knowledge work for you. hackers are NOT the cause of M$ putting all of this stuff in their OS, GREED is. and because it is so easy to crack into M$ systems, they will never be able to secure it, unless ofcourse they expand their thought process from Win 2003 server and put the following into their setup instructions: " Addendum A: Active X has been disabled on the Web Browser, also no network card should be activated to ensure that Micro$ft's exemplary security system remains intact. We will send your genuine advantage installation once a month by snail-mail for your <forced> installation. Thank you for paying and paying to MicroSft... "

Pardon my misuse of the Word 'hacker', 'Cracker' is the actual word that needs to be used, however we know why I used the former.
Posted by jggpc (8 comments )
Link Flag
it sucks
Who cares....Windows is not meant for the average user. I say that not to say that m$ didn't have the average user in mind but that look at the price for windows. Companies have no problem forking over $100 per license but the average home pc owner is not going to fork out $100 for an operating system especially if it is buggy. I also think that m$ is screwing themselves over with their effort towards hackers. The hackers mentality is to get under software creators skin and show that they are not afraid of them. By giving hackers and their ability to hack around windows attention, more and more hackers will spawn. They realize that m$ is paying attention to them. Also more and more will try to hack windows because it is a challenge. M$ is digging a hole and soon the hurdles that the normal windows owner will have to go through just to freakin' us the software will be more than they can handle and no one will use it.

M$ is digging its own grave and i laugh at that....make OS X accessible to x86 and apple will lead the os war.
Posted by christinme7 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Vista: our chance to change to Linux
Waiting... Waiting... Go! Here's our chance - Go Linux, buy an Apple, change change change!
Posted by solcom1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I definitely agree!
It's time to change. Don't wait until you have no options. Competition is good and healthy. Linux is available in easy to install packages. Support is growing all the time. BTW, you don't need an Apple.
Posted by danindenver (3 comments )
Link Flag
I just hope Microsoft doesn't go to far...
About 2 weeks ago I received an email thanking me for my participation in Windows Vista Consumer Assisted Support beta program. They also informed me that, sometime in February, they would send me a complimentary copy of Vista Ultimate. The irony is that I can't really run Vista on my current systems do to driver issues.

However, since I know that I will eventually be given a reason to want a Vista system, I was planning on building a whole new computer in the later half of next year. I just hope that Microsoft doesn't go to far in trying to make Vista "pirate proof" that it becomes unusable. Or that they use this as an excuse to violate my right to privacy.

I guess I just view this whole issue allot differently from Microsoft. I have legit versions of XP currently installed, but I know allot of people who don't. And the catch is... They can't afford XP. I find it specious that Microsoft should claim these people are reducing their profits. Why? It's simple. In a world, where there was "no piracy", many of these people simply wouldn't be able to afford Microsoft's software at all. This would result in these same people being forced to find some "non-Microsoft" alternative - NOT in being "forced" to pay Microsoft for said software. Part of me really wishes that would happen, just because it would promote those alternatives. Choice is always a good thing for consumers, even though many don't appreciate that fact.
Posted by Cannyone (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft Worries Me!!!
I participated in a survey, and had a choice of any software from MS, I chose MS XP Pro SP2, they sent me the package, disc, manual, boxed up and all, the key on the manual, etc, etc. About 2 weeks later, I'm downloading updates, and it kicks back that I am running possible piracy software, the software that MS Sent Me. I bought a new Dell before this transaction that had XP Home SP2 pre-installed, I completely reformatted, and installed the retail version of Pro that they sent me, but it's Possible Pirated Software??? what the fu**.. They sent it to me to begin with... Go figure that one... Maybe I need to break out Ubuntu, and reformat again....
Posted by marine_devildog (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Frankenbuild? Excuse me?
Do they mean they are combining a beta version of Vista with the latest version? That's stupid?

Are they really more interested in saving a few dollars in Pirate money than having a stable OS?

Take my advice everyone, and either upgrade to XP pro or go with Linux.
Posted by mattumanu (599 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Go with Linux? Excuse me?
Yeah, they mean something like that, yes. That's smart (to combine an unfinnished version of an OS with a final version)? They are more interested in making sure people are as well protected with Vista as they designed to be to avoid having ignorants bashing Vista's security because they were hacked due to having a "deffective" version of Vista, not the true final release released by Microsoft.
Take my advice everyone: don't listen to ignorant biased advices based on spite, upgrade to a *legal* final version of Vista and avoid sticking with much less secure XP (whichever version) or switching to an OS that will render half your software totally useless.
Posted by Ryo Hazuki (378 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft Anti-Piracy What a waste
It seems to me that Microsoft who has reaped billions of dollars without ever having a real idea has sent greed over the edge.
I have been around since DOS 1.0 ( which never worked at all LOL) to the new VISTA.
All I have ever seen is the crap they put out that is broken and security defective. All of there efforts have been put to trying to get everyone to pay and pay up big time.
I own 14 computers and run XP on only two of them. The only reason for that is some software that I require will only run on Windows. As soon as I can find suitable replacements for that software it will be none.
I own 5 copies of XP ( legal copies) and I have had my share of problems with microsoft claiming that they are pirated.
So screw them I am not going down that road with VISTA , they can keep it

Now I don't want to endorse any OS but Linux is free or damn close to it
Xandros is the closest to windows , it installs really slick and can find and use almost all of your weird hardware , something XP can't.Costs about 70 bucks with some support.This is for newbies no experience with UNIX needed. Based on the Debian backbone flavour
SUN 10 works great a complete UNIX solutions but has some hardware issues, you may want to buy a SUN box for complete compatibility and the price FREE FREE FREE period no catch. By the way when it comes to hardware here is a quick fact. INTEL is just releasing the QUAD processor chip ( that is 4 processor cores in one) SUN just released an 8 core chip LOL ( a little ahead in the game.

So it seems that Microsoft loses another customer so sad isn't it
a new site is putting up the ***** about everything and anything It is new and not much there yet but wait for it

Posted by jammer699669 (1 comment )
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