Microsoft has had a long history of battling against piracy, ever since Bill Gates’ Open Letter to Hobbyists in 1976, long before there was even a personal computer software industry to speak of. Now, Microsoft finds itself in its latest piratical engagement, with the recent cracks of Windows Vista and Office 2007, both of which just hit gold release status. Torrents of the cracks are already finding their way around pirate sites.
The crack for Windows Vista (which is called “Vista BillGates”) is not a true crack, as it replaces components from the final version of the operating system with those from earlier betas. This allows the would-be pirate to use a product key that worked with Beta 1, Beta 2, RC1, or RC2, with the Gold release of the operating system. This allows the OS to be activated normally over the Internet, but does not bypass the activation system itself. Microsoft had made these earlier betas available to the public on a limited basis.
The other piratical news today is that a copy of the Enterprise edition of Office 2007 was also made available on the ‘Net. This version, like other “Corporate” editions of Microsoft products, uses a volume license key (in this case, Volume Activation 1.0) and does not require activation over the Internet.
Of course, Microsoft has methods of fighting back against these latest leaks. The company can push updates through Windows and Office Update that deactivate the pirated copies. As the company did with Windows XP Corporate Editions, Microsoft can invalidate corporate volume license keys that have leaked out at a later date. This latter strategy worked moderately well for Microsoft—at least a few people whose pirated copy of XP had its VLK invalidated did bite the bullet and replace it with a legitimate version. Also, Microsoft can continue their strategy of using Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) to restrict access to certain non-essential updates. Internet Explorer 7 was an example of a product offered only to users who passed WGA.
Microsoft’s aim is to make piracy annoying enough that casual users will stop bothering with it, despite the fact that dedicated pirates will still manage to break it again and again. Still, it’s clear that the battle between pirates and those who would wish to stop them is far from over.