Oops! Leaked WinXP code contains valid product key

Very helpful of the good people in Redmond...

The latest WinXP RC1 leak makes the security of Microsoft's preview program download look feeble enough, but it turns out there's more - somebody seems to have left a working product key not very deeply buried in the iso. Naturally that product key will cease to work for Product Activation just as soon as Microsoft realises what happened (which is around now), but it does mean that anybody who got to the unauthorised download link has the capability to install the software.

Then they can either just run it for two weeks until it times out, or hunt around until they find a crack that'll do service. Alternatively, if they're really quick and Microsoft doesn't already have the key on the death list, it may do service for a couple more hours.

The key itself is in a sample unattended install file that ships with the preview program edition. Almost all of the data has been replaced by generic entries, but it looks like somebody slipped up when it came to the key.

Back at the leakface, RC1 leak two has now been plugged; it's possible that Conxion has done this via some means other than changing the filename, but don't count on it. Our sources, however, claim that there's already a third route to free RC1 - we'll attempt to confirm that later in the day.

One source puts forward a plausible explanation for Microsoft's and Conxion's embarrassment; he blames Microsoft's download manager. This, he claims, doesn't retain any username/password combinations. "It is just queued files for download." So if you hit on the right filename to pass to the download manager, you ought to be able to get a free copy of anything that uses this procedure. The system's used for beta programs, and for MSDN, the latter being the developer program which gives you early access to practically all code in exchange for a whacking annual subscription.

If our source's theory is correct, Microsoft could therefore have a whacking security problem on its hands... ®

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