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March 2007 | Vista activation cracked by brute force

Microsoft's "unhackable" OS activation system has been hacked. Er, again.

It is a simple brute force attack which just tries keys. If it gets one, you manually have to check it and try activation. It's a bit clinky but it, apparently

This particular method of attack has got to be a bit of a worry for Microsoft for many reasons. The crack is a glorified guesser, but with the speed of modern PCs and the number of outstanding keys, the 25-digit serials are within range. The biggest problem for MS? If this gets widespread, people will start activating legit keys that are owned by other people.

It won't take long for boxes bought at retail to be activated before they are bought. Worse, the people who coughed up the cash for the software for real will get 'you are a filthy pirate' messages. Won't that be a laugh at the MS phone banks in Bangalore.

So, what do you do? There is really no differentiating between a legit copy with a manually typed in wrong key and a hack attempt. Sure MS can throttle this by limiting key attempts to one a minute or so on new software, but the older variants are already burnt to disk. The cat is out of the bag.

The code is floating, the method is known, and there is nothing MS can do at this point, other than suck it down and prepare for the problems this causes. To make matters worse, MS will have to decide if it is worth it to allow people to take back legit keys that have been hijacked, or tell customers to go away, we have your money already, read your license agreement and piss off, we owe you nothing.

This is nasty for MS, and if it allows you to take back your legit keys, how long do you think it will take before people catch on to the fact that you can call in and hijack already purchased keys once you generate one that someone else activated?

No, this is a mess and the problem is the very malware activation and anti-consumer licensing that MS built into Vista. Then again, it is kind of hard to feel sorry for them the way they screw their paying customers.

- vistanews