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MS builds tougher piracy protection into Vista

Redmond's latest plan to scuttle pirates unveiled

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Microsoft has announced plans to tighten up anti-piracy features in its forthcoming operating systems Windows Vista and Windows Server "Longhorn".

Redmond's upcoming Software Protection Platform is designed to make software piracy harder while making software licensing less of a chore.

The technology, which is also designed to protect customers from software tampering, will debut with Vista and Longhorn but Redmond plans to incorporate the technology with more products over time. The platform will change how Microsoft software activates, is validated online, and behaves when tampering or hacking is detected.

The Software Protection Platform works with validation programs such as Windows Genuine Advantage, Redmond's controversial "phone home" nagware.

Customers using genuine and licensed copies of Windows Vista will have access to Windows Aero and Windows ReadyBoost features, as well as full functionality of Windows Defender security software and extra optional updates from Windows Update. Systems that fail validation will not have access to these features, although they will still have access to critical security updates.

As with Windows XP, Vista systems need to be activated through Microsoft using a genuine product key within 30 days. Failure to validate Vista will result in the system operating in reduced functionality mode until a genuine product key is used to activate and a successful validation occurs.

For the avoidance of doubt, users of non-genuine Windows Vista software will be treated to the appearance of a persistent statement in the lower right hand corner of their desktop space that reads, "This copy of Windows is not genuine". Vista product keys might be blocked for a number of reasons, including if the product key is abused, stolen, pirated or seized as a result of anti-piracy enforcement efforts.

Microsoft cites figures by the Business Software Alliance to support its contention that 35 per cent of all software installed worldwide during 2005 was pirated or unlicensed (a $35bn a year problem, according to disputed BSA figures) in justifying the need for stronger anti-piracy technologies in its software.

Redmond's efforts in combating software piracy focus on three areas: education, engineering and enforcement. The Software Protection Platform focuses on trying to frustrate piracy through improved product engineering. ®

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