Feeds

WPA wars resume over WinXP SP1 beta

First workaround turns up bang on schedule

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Here we go again? Shortly after the beta of WinXP Service Pack 1 was released, locking out installations using leaked activation keys, a workaround with what appears to be a replacement key began circulating on IRC. We can therefore look forward to a repeat of the Windows Product Activation wars that were waged during the original XP beta, as crack and block alternate until the product actually ships.

At which point, barring the invention of an entirely new and uncrackable system, the final crack will be unveiled. At the moment, the SP1 beta won't install on systems using at least one widely-leaked activation key. The workaround circulating appears to include a replacement key, but given that this could be easily blocked by Microsoft in future builds, its main importance is that it explains a procedure for deactivating the system and entering a new corporate key. Which could even be a genuine one. You never know.

The cracking at this stage has about the same long-term significance as was the case during the XP beta, i.e., none. The beta itself will expire prior to the service pack finally shipping, and in the intervening period, if Microsoft wants to, then a game of block and counter-block will take place.

It's obvious what Microsoft's problem is here, but entirely non-obvious how it can be solved. Workarounds for WPA that allowed pirated retail copies of XP to be used were devised, and similar routines could no doubt be produced for any subsequent protection system Microsoft cared to ship. But sensible software pirates preferred the ease of just using a leaked corporate key, and for as long as corporate keys exist, there will be leaked ones. At the moment, given that key generation systems appear to be able to produce operational keys out of thin air, there don't even need to be leaked ones, but Microsoft will no doubt get a lid on that aspect at some point.

Similarly, although it is conceivable that Microsoft could develop towards having some kind of unique identifier for each installation that stopped pirate copies using Windows Update, this isn't going to work terribly well for as long as corporate customer are able to demand patches and upgrades that they don't have to apply one machine at a time.

Basically, the system as currently shipped doesn't deliver what Microsoft wants, and the company's going to have to figure out a new one or stop wanting it. WPA 2 (which we feel sure the boffins are working on) really has to identify individual PCs, copies of Windows sold at retail, with new pieces of hardware and via corporate licensing schemes, and it's going to have to be able to audit corporate installations without forcing corporate customers to apply updates to individual machines. A rental model would probably deliver, but we keep backing off that one, don't we?

Whatever the future system turns out to be will have to be steered through the privacy minefield, and implemented slowly, stage by stage. So maybe collecting IDs at Windows Update now is just part of the process of getting people used to what's coming. Meanwhile, the WPA wars will at least keep both sides off the streets. ®

Related story:
MS turns up heat on warezed WinXP copies

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.