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Below is an excerpt from an interview with Mike Sievert in December 2007 concerning WGA in Vista that involves changes in SP1. See the full interview here.

The jist of it is if you have a “pirated” version of Vista you may be stuck. It will roll back the BIOS hacks and grace period hacks. The good news is that the behaviour of a non-genuine copy has changed. No longer does Vista go into a reduced functionality mode – it simply nags you much like your significant other (or the XP counterfeit nag). Windows Server 2008 will now require activation!

What are the latest piracy threats that you see today to Windows Vista, and what are you doing about it?

We know that Windows Vista is a lot harder to counterfeit than Windows XP, but we also know that pirates will keep trying. We currently see two primary types of exploits pirates often use to generate counterfeit versions of Windows Vista. One is known as the OEM Bios exploit, which involves modifying system files and the BIOS of the motherboard to mimic a type of product activation performed on copies of Windows that are pre-installed by OEMs in the factory. Another is called the Grace Timer exploit. This exploit attempts to reset the “grace time” limit between installation and activation to something like the year 2099 in some cases. Implementing exploits involves extreme alterations to key system components and can seriously affect system stability.

So we are taking action. SP1 will include updates that will target those exploits and disable them.

What will happen to systems which have those exploits?

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. 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.

This is a change in tactics from our current approach for Windows Vista, and it is based on great feedback from customers and partners. With the original release-to-manufacturers version of Windows Vista we released in November 2006, counterfeit systems can go into a state called reduced functionality mode, which essentially suspends a number of features of the system until the user takes action to get genuine.

Our new tactic, which takes effect with SP1 for Windows Vista and also will be part of Windows Server 2008, due out next year, is a proven and effective way to combat piracy. Customers want to know the status of their systems, and how to take action if it turns out they were victimized.

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