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Vista keygen hoax exposed

As other attacks surface

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Doubts have arisen about the effectiveness of a Windows key generator package that allegedly offered a means to circumvent Microsoft's anti-piracy protection.

Activation codes for Vista were said to have been obtained by brute force using key generator software that randomly tries a variety of 25-digit codes until it finds one that works.

Initial reports on Keznews suggested that the unsophisticated attack worked. Over the weekend, however, the author of the package has stepped forward to say these people must be either mistaken or telling porkies because the program is ineffective.

"The brute force keygen is a joke. I never intended for it to work. I have never gotten it to work. Everyone should stop using it," the anonymous coder said on a post to the Keznews forum.

Rather than go through the tedious business of running something like the key generation, we heard from Register readers that some people on either side of the Atlantic have surreptitiously used the activation codes printed on boxed copies of Vista or stickers on new PCs to get their system up and running with illicitly downloaded copies of Vista.

One reader cast doubt on this approach saying that Vista keys are normally inside copies of boxed software so users would have to undo shrink wrapped packaging. That still leaves the possibility of copying codes from stickers on PCs with Vista preloaded, however.

And although the Windows key generator may be a hoax, Hexus reports a more workable approach to cracking Vista.

The latest attack exploits Vista's System Locked Pre-installation 2 (SLP2) mechanism, technology which allows Microsoft's favoured hardware partners to avoid users having to activate their Vista installs. SLP2 combines an OEM specific certificate along with markers in the machine's BIOS and an appropriate product key.

The hack involves creating a BIOS emulator that serves up the correct BIOS data when needed. Used in combination with the appropriate OEM certificate and product key this defeats the activation mechanism. Information on the OEM certificates and other information needed for the hack to work are available. Withdrawing the affected keys in order to defeat the hack would likely upset Microsoft's OEMs.

Although Microsoft might still be able to defeat it, the hack might be effective in the short-term, and emulator writers might update their technology too, creating a serious headache for Microsoft, Hexus reports. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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