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Corp Windows 2003 Server WPA key escapes

Wide open ahead of the rollout again...

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Microsoft has suffered another one of those embarrassing corporate Windows Product Activation key leaks, for Windows Server 2003 this time, almost three weeks ahead of the product's scheduled release. According to discussion at Neowin, this key is for three versions of 2003 Server, i.e. Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions; it does not however apply to the retail edition of the software, which is similar to the case of the fabled XP corporate key leak, which did not work with XP Home.

This however won't necessarily make a lot of difference, as a conversion routine is circulating which allegedly allows an RTM Retail version to be turned into the corporate version. And a "Windows Server 2003 3-in-1 corporate" is reported to be available on Usenet, so it would appear Microsoft's best efforts to stop its software being copied have been defeated before the rollout again.

Does it matter? Probably not greatly, because so long as Microsoft is prepared to issue 'magic' keys that set its software installations in motion without phoning home, those keys are going to leak. Microsoft is, effectively, subverting its own protection systems, and knows this. It is however difficult for it to stop doing so, at least in this rev of WPA, because its treasured business customers won't put up with the hassle of online activation.

Microsoft tackled the XP key leaks by denying SP1 Windows Update service to invalid keys. Prior to this, however, WPA had been sufficiently disentangled and subverted for key generation routines to be produced. These chug out workable corporate keys for several Microsoft products, so the earlier leaked keys had been rendered obsolete in the warez community anyway.

The impact of the Server 2003 leak will likely be rather less than the XP one (which itself doesn't seem to have had a totally visible impact in Microsoft's profit margins). Whereas swiped editions of XP Professional will tend to be run by individuals and therefore needn't be terribly obvious to Microsoft, anybody using a hot version of Server for what it's supposed to be for (i.e., running a business network) will be rather more likely to attract the gimlet eye of the antipiracy squad. And the further up the business network you go, the more likely you are to get hit by an audit.

So small key leak, not many bucks lost by MS. But no doubt quantities of geeks who're no better than they should be will shortly be running 2003 Server, which they'd never have bought anyway, as a standalone system. ®

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