Microsoft has released an update to Windows Vista that is designed to prevent a type of piracy of the operating system in which files from various test and final versions of the software have been mixed so as to bypass the product activation technology.
Dubbed "Frankenbuild" monster, the workaround involves cobbling
together files from a Vista Release Candidate build with the
build that was released to manufacturing in November, to create a
hybrid that bypasses activation.
While Vista has only been released to businesses with a volume
license, the software is set to be released to consumers on Jan.
But copies of the operating system are already circulating on the
Internet, where hackers are trying to bypass its built-in
security and product activation technologies.
This week, Microsoft released an update, which detects tampering
of Windows Vista by mixing files from various test and final
versions of the software in order to work around licensing
mechanisms. The update will use the new Windows Update client in
Vista to make the "Frankenbuild" systems to go through a genuine
validation check. When detected, these unauthorized copies will
be given a 30-day grace period, where features like the new Aero
user interface and ReadyBoost are no longer available to them,
and their use of the operating system is limited to one hour with
a default Web browser. After the 30-day grace period, pirated
copies they will be placed into a reduced functionality mode.
This week?s update will only affect systems that are running a
specific binary-tampered version of Windows Vista, Microsoft said
in a statement.
"These systems will fail that check because we have blocked the
Release Candidate [product] keys for systems not authorized to
use them. In other words, the wrong key is being used. The
systems will then be flagged as non-genuine systems," the company
said in a blog posting on the Windows Genuine Advantage site.
However, users of these tampered systems will still have access
to all their data.
"A user can always boot their PC into what is called Safe Mode.
Safe Mode is a mode of using Windows that has limited driver,
display and networking support?but allows a user access to all
their files," the company said.
But Microsoft also pointed out that the Frankenbuild workaround
is far from the only one that the company has seen over the past
few weeks. Another workaround involves the use of some
virtualization technology and Key Management Services, practices
used for activating larger business customers, the blog post
said, adding that "pirating Windows Vista will have real
consequences and will, in turn, encourage people to check before
The Redmond, Wash., software maker also warned in a statement
that if further illegal workarounds or other examples of
counterfeit Windows Vista code were posted to the Internet or
became available through other means, "Microsoft may take
additional steps to stop the spread and use of counterfeit
versions of Windows Vista by releasing updates to the software,
and then distributing the updates using various mechanisms, which
may include Microsoft.com and/or Windows Update."