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Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Programme has been cracked only days after the software giant activated the antipiracy scheme. Since the service went live on Monday (25 July), Windows users wishing to receive software updates from the Microsoft Download Centre or from Windows Update were obliged to join the WGA authentication program.

Users are prompted to download an ActiveX control that checks the authenticity of their Windows software and, if Windows is validated, stores a download key on the PC for future verification. But hackers have developed a simple one line hack which turns off the trigger for the key check, allowing users to get around the requirement to verify their serial number before using Windows Update.

Since security updates remain available to all Windows users — with or without WGA validation — via Automatic Updates it was always the case that security patches were available for systems running counterfeit Windows software. That was never the purpose of WGA which is instead pitched towards steering unwitting users of pirated software towards buying the real deal. Even this limited ambition raised the hackles of hackers, which tells us more about the relationship between them and the software giant, than about the efficacy of Microsoft's anti-piracy efforts. ®

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