Menu
Microsoft admits hacks on Vista OEM BIOS

Microsoft admits hacks on Vista OEM BIOS

Microsoft's anti-piracy team has acknowledged that hacks against Windows Vista's OEM BIOS activation scheme are circulating, but seemed to say it has no plans to immediately counter the threat.

Alex Kochis, senior product manager of Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), spelled out the hacks, which try to spoof how major computer makers pre-activate Windows Vista before shipping systems to customers. To make original equipment manufacturers (OEM) jobs easier, Kochis says, Microsoft has long let them add a marker in the motherboard's BIOS to identify PCs licenced to boot Windows.

OEM BIOS hacks aren't new, he says. But ironically it's Vista's new anti-counterfeit defences that may make them more popular. "Because there were easier ways to pirate Windows XP, I don't think much attention was ever paid to [OEM hacking]," says Kochis. "However, because Windows Vista can't be pirated as easily as Windows XP, it's possible that the increased pressure will result in more interest in efforts to hack OEM Activation 2.0."

At least two OEM BIOS hack strategies are in use, Kochis says, including one that uses software to trick a pirated copy of Vista into thinking it's running on a legitimate OEM-activated system.

Kochis, however, was ambiguous about whether the WGA group is planning immediate action against these hacks. "It's worth noting we prioritise our responses, because not every attempt deserves the same level of response," says Kochis. "Our goal isn't to stop every 'mad scientist' that's on a mission to hack Windows.

"Our first goal is to disrupt the business model of organised counterfeiters and protect users from becoming unknowing victims. This means focusing on responding to hacks that are scalable and can easily be commercialised."

If true, the stance would be at odds with past behaviour by Microsoft and its WGA team. Last month, when a web site posted a tool that its maker claimed could crack Windows Vista's activation process, WGA reacted the next day, saying it was investigating the hack.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request to clarify whether WGA is now on the OEM BIOS hack case.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoftvista

Featured

Slideshows

The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards

The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards

Hundreds of leaders from the New Zealand IT industry gathered at the Hilton in Auckland on 17 November to celebrate the finest female talent in the Kiwi channel and recognise the winners of the Reseller News Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) 2020.

The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards
Leading female front runners honoured at the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards

Leading female front runners honoured at the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards

The leading female front runners of the New Zealand ICT industry joined together for the annual Reseller News Women in ICT Awards event at the Hilton in Auckland, during which hundreds of guests celebrated 13 outstanding individuals who won awards, chosen from more than 50 finalists representing over 30 organisations.

Leading female front runners honoured at the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards
Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners

Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners

More than 500 channel leaders gathered in Auckland on 21 October at the ​Reseller News Innovation Awards ​2020 to celebrate the achievements of the New Zealand technology industry's top partners, start-ups, vendors, distributors and individuals.

Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners
Show Comments