Microsoft Tools to Combat Vista Piracy

A new software protection platform targets Vista and Longhorn piracy in an attempt to give Microsoft's channel partners a level-playing field.

Microsoft will unveil Oct. 4 a new software protection platform and accompanying technologies that it plans to incorporate into a variety of products, starting with Windows Vista and Windows Server Longhorn, in hopes of combating piracy.

The new technologies will be included in all of Vista versions, and over time every Microsoft product will use the platform to some extent, Cori Hartje, director of Microsofts Genuine Software Initiative, told eWEEK.

The hope inside Microsoft is that these new technologies will make it harder for people to pirate Windows Vista and help ensure that its channel partners have a level-playing field.

/zimages/1/28571.gifTo read whats inside the six Windows Vista releases, click here.

"Today, with such an easy way to copy and counterfeit Windows XP, those channel partners dont really have a level playing field to sell legitimate copies of the software. We are very optimistic that this will make a dent in Vista piracy and counterfeiting," she said.

Among the new activation technologies that will be found in Vista and Longhorn Server is Volume Activation 2.0., which represents a big change for how those enterprise volume customers activate their software, Thomas Lindeman, senior product manager for Microsofts Software Protection Platform, told eWEEK.

"With Windows XP, the volume-licensing keys could easily be stolen and leaked as they are in clear text and in the registry on everyones computer. Customers told us that we needed to help them protect that key, so now the keys are going to be encrypted and kept in a trusted store," he said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifIs mandatory Windows validation a security risk? Click here to read more.

Roger Kay, president of research group Endpoint Technologies Associates, told eWEEK that Microsofts assertion of its right to control the kernel is key to warding off hackers.

"Apple does it," he said. "Why not Microsoft? By not allowing anything to run at the same privilege level as the kernel, and by shutting down the kernel if anything messes with it, Microsoft is fielding a much more robust system than it did with XP, which allowed all kinds of kernel modifications by software partners and, by extension, hackers."

Lindeman added that future Microsoft products such as Office 14, SQL Server and Exchange are already planning to use this platform, whether just for code protection, digital distribution or volume.

But he stressed that there will be no cross-checking whatsoever of other software on a persons hardware, and there will be no reporting back to Microsoft or validating any other software except for Windows Vista.

In fact, the Redmond, Wash., company undertook a public disclosure with a third party who audited the traffic and data that went back and forth during activation so that it could prove there was no personally identifiable information there, he said.

Next Page: Two kinds of volume-license key services.