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Vista Activation Cracked by Brute Force

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the disturbance-in-the-force dept.

Windows 470

Bengt writes "The Inquirer has a story about a brute force Vista key activation crack. It's nothing fancy; it's described as a 'glorified guesser.' The danger of this approach is that sooner or later the key cracker will begin activating legitimate keys purchased by other consumers. From the article: 'The code is floating, the method is known, and there is nothing MS can do at this point other than suck it down and prepare for the problems this causes. To make matters worse, Microsoft will have to decide if it is worth it to allow people to take back legit keys that have been hijacked, or tell customers to go away, we have your money already, read your license agreement and get bent, we owe you nothing.'"

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470 comments

MS would owe at least the key (5, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206662)

From the article summary:

To make matters worse, Microsoft will have to decide if it is worth it to allow people to take back legit keys that have been hijacked, or tell customers to go away, we have your money already, read your license agreement and get bent, we owe you nothing.'

I don't see how this is possible, or credible speculation even for a company a evil as MS is perceived on slashdot. I'm no MS fanboy, but I've had reasonable "service" from MS on issues of keys to activate my machines under some unusual circumstances.

This may get sticky for MS, but for goodness sake we've got to find better bashing material on MS (and I believe there be plenty) if we want to maintain any street cred. There's no WAY MS won't be giving license keys to legitimate purchasers of XP (especially considering the vast majority are pre-activated shelf-delivered versions).

(Aside: pure speculation on my part, but one of the most glaring weaknesses of this "claim" may be the notion of brute force, and that that is even a possible approach. Most validation handshakes require a reasonable length of time between attempts to circumvent brute force attacks... if it takes one second between attempts for billions of combinations, you're going to eventually be activating an obsolete OS. Further, after 3 or 4 incorrect attempts, any validation scheme worth its salt will quiesce for some longer inconvenient time... requiring a "cooling off" period before one can make further attempts. This story falls under the heading of "I heard someone say they knew someone whose sister's brother has figured out a Vista activation hack..." Sigh.)

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Interesting)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206692)

Any customer who gets their key "stolen" by this program can just take it back - Vista comes with several activations on the same key. Once the customer uses the key, the previous user of it will eventually be required to re-activate.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (3, Interesting)

catch23 (97972) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207020)

Unfortunately most of the users of their new operating system will eventually be corporate users. And I'm fairly sure the company is not going to put up with re-activation every few days because a bunch of users in China are stealing their keys. So either the company will ditch the new operating system (bad for microsoft), deal with it (a serious pain for the company), or ask microsoft for a pre-activated key that cannot be reactivated (more trouble for microsoft but saves everyone's butt).

Re:MS would owe at least the key (4, Informative)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207204)

Business users (at least large ones) won't be using Retail media on many machines. Since this is a crack for retail there would be no effect on people using MAK or KMS validations as the majority of corporations would be doing. (Yes, I know that for those few corps that want to use Ultimate on some of their machines this could be an issue because Ultimate requires retail activation). However for VL (Business and Enterprise versions) MAK and KMS would be unaffected.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (2, Interesting)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207122)

Once the customer uses the key, the previous user of it will eventually be required to re-activate.

Once Vista sets the activated flag, does it actually check for revocation of activation at some prescribed interval?

Re:MS would owe at least the key (4, Informative)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207232)

Yes, I believe it is every six months, as that is the interval by which Windows Vista retail must be re-activated anyways.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (4, Informative)

cswiger2005 (905744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207276)

Once Vista sets the activated flag, does it actually check for revocation of activation at some prescribed interval?

Why, yes. Rechecking the activation key against an updated list of revoked licenses takes place as part of the periodic updates to "Windows Validation" delivered via Windows Update. In practice under XP, this happens every month to every few months. Depending on your settings and whatever the future might bring, it might well be the case that machines will be checking for updates & possibly re-validating themselves every week.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206710)

It seems that this technique doesn't test against the microsoft server, but can tell if a key is valid on the local computer, which would actually be news.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (1)

khundeck (265426) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207010)

And if that is true, then perhaps collecting enough valid keys could lead to discovering the actual 'validation function' and removing the need for brute force.

Kurt

Re:MS would owe at least the key (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207090)

And if that is true, then perhaps collecting enough valid keys could lead to discovering the actual 'validation function' and removing the need for brute force.
Huh? They've got the validation function, that's how this works.

The problem is that it's one-way and reversing it is mathematically hard, so it's easier just to try a scatter-gun approach.

it is useless (5, Informative)

WARM3CH (662028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207094)

It seems that this technique doesn't test against the microsoft server, but can tell if a key is valid on the local computer, which would actually be news.
This is not really that important if a key is validated in a local computer or not. Any key needs to be finally validated by the servers: Out of all possible valid keys that pass the validation on a local computer, only very very tiny number of them are actually keys that have been (or will be) issued by Microsoft. Think of it like this: with 25 symbols for the keys you have a huge huge search space A. Now, this program finds the keys that are valid according to the magic formula that Vista validation system uses. All these keys form a very very tiny subset of A, called B. However, the set of keys that Microsoft has already issued (or will ever issue), set C, is only very very tiny subset of B. This program finds random keys in the B but to actually validate Vista with them, user has to contact Microsoft's servers to see if the key are part of the C or not. This is where the whole things breaks down next to being totally useless. (this is the same story with the CD-Keys of the mutli-player games...)

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Insightful)

notaprguy (906128) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206826)

The commentator on the Inquirer Web site is obviously a total boob (trying to use a British-sounding insult). He's cheering theft which in its own right is sleazy. Worse, he seems to be happy that the legitimate and paying Windows Vista customers are going to be at best confused and worst case screwed because some idiot stole their key. I totally don't understand the bizarre perception that software thievs are somehow Robin-hood-like characters. They're the 21st century equivalent of pick-pockets.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206912)

I can understand the happiness a little.

If this truely starts to be a problem with legitimate users being bothered by having their keys taken, MS will have to loosen up activation. That would be a benefit to all legitimate users.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Insightful)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206972)

Or they could NOT loosen up activation, and it would be a hindrance to all legitimate users.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Insightful)

orderb13 (792382) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207240)

In which case there will be lawsuits and EULA's will be challenged and a companies responsibility to it's consumers will be better defined. Sounds like a win-win scenario here, as much as anything in regards to this can be called a win.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (1)

cloricus (691063) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207422)

Agreed.

I really don't care how validation dies I just care that it does and doesn't destroy our rights in some other way. The same goes for DRM. I refuse to be treated like a criminal which is why I don't buy DVDs any more (MPAA asking me if I'd steal a movie when I've just paid for the damn thing!) and I avoid everything with DRM or activation (which is a lot easier to do than you'd think). Unfortunately as much as I use Mac and Linux at home I'm still forced to use Windows at work and I have to deal with the activation issues all the time (we are only a medium sized enterprise and system builder packs or preloaded pc's still need to be activated) even though we have a strict license requirement for all non FOSS software in use.

I'm sick of watching consumer and general rights go out of the window - I don't have a use for them personally though others seemed to fight hard for them in the past so it must suck without them - and I'll be damned if I don't support some thing that tries to restore some thing we've lost.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (2, Insightful)

rednuhter (516649) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206984)

No, he hopes that by showing the weakness of the activation system that we will no longer be cursed by having to use it.
He hopes that by affecting existing/legit users that the issue will be brought to task sooner rather than later.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (1)

cyclop (780354) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207012)

There is no one like a software thief. There may be someone that shares software with his neighbours, by copying it, but it is not what I'd call strictly "theft". More "disregarding copyright limits".

Re:MS would owe at least the key (0, Flamebait)

tomknight (190939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207106)

I guess you don't work for a commercial software company then. It's theft. Theft is wrong. Fuck the thieves.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Insightful)

ednopantz (467288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207160)

The irony is that this is an example where IP theft *is* actually taking the original out of commission.

Unlike duplicating an mp3, here the original copy is no longer usable. It isn't just making another copy for yourself and leaving the original functional.

But the victim is MS or their customers, so it must be ok.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (1)

tomknight (190939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207286)

Oh, note the Inquirer article that the original article links to:

http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=37 954 [theinquirer.net]
"Vista activation crackers are criminals".

Yup, it's on the web, so it must be true.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (3, Interesting)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207428)

What is peoples' problem that they can't undertand that "I did it for fun and experience" is a valid reason for an exploit?

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207370)

So you imagine he probably works for a non-commercial software company?

Regardless, its copyright infringement, not 'theft' and not 'piracy'. Its really quite simple, theft is when you physically take something that doesn't belong to you. Copyright infringement is, amongst other things, when you make a copy of something you aren't authorized too.

In fact in this case the real issue isn't even copyright infringement. Suppose I use this keygen on legally purchased software. What laws are being broken?

I didn't 'steal' your key, I happened to come up with the same number MS assigned to someone else independantly. Hell, I might have come up with the number before MS, which, if anything, would make it -my- intellectual property; and MS would be infringing my copyright by issueing you "my" key string.

Which is of course absurd.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (3, Interesting)

des09 (263929) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207158)

Normally, I'd agree without comment, but this case does resemble theft more than most piracy in that the "victim" loses the ability to use the software they [purchased|licensed].

Re:MS would owe at least the key (1)

cyclop (780354) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207292)

Right, in this particular case it's much like theft. However it's MS that actively sets up a mechanism such as to make it theft, not the nature of software copying itself.

Indeed who is copying Vista by using keys that are then inactivated are directly harming an innocent user just like them, so I agree in this case is an ethically disputable behaviour. But it's MS that built this kind of moral blackmail (with concrete and arguably sensible motivations, I agree).

Re:MS would owe at least the key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207088)

Worse, he seems to be happy that the legitimate and paying Windows Vista customers are going to be at best confused and worst case screwed because some idiot stole their key.

He's happy because it's funny, like Lucy once again yanking the football from Charlie Brown.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (4, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207348)

Copyright infringement is not theft. It is immoral of you to deliberately misrepresent the issue by using loaded terminology.

Using Microsoft's services, such as Windows Update, could be considered theft. But that is theft from Microsoft, not from consumers.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Funny)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207378)

I'm not sure boob is really typically British insult, I have a German friend with the same trouble who believes that the word ignoramus is in common enough use to pass himself off as a native although he is sadly mistaken in this.

For future reference you could try using words like:

Fuckwit, wanker, bastard, fuckhead, tosser, cunt, spanner, moron, dickhead or even shit for brains.

For example:

"The commentator on the Inquirer Web site is obviously a total fucking wanker. The fuckwit is cheering theft which is in its own right sleazy. Worse, the cretin seems to be happy that the legitimate and paying Windows Vista customers are going to be at best confused and worst case screwed because some idiot stole their key. What a fucking cock !"

I must admit I probably have the same problem in my belief that most Scottish people curse each other by calling them sassenachs.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (1)

Library Spoff (582122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207408)

>a total boob

If you`re wanting to sound british call him a `tit` - although a boob is a breast it`s not really
an insult. You could of said he `made a boob` if he F`cked something up...

Re:MS would owe at least the key (2, Interesting)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206944)

I bet...

This is not a brute force hacker, but just a database of some key with a fancy interface on top that pretends to be calculation just just updates a progress bar. The database will release some key after some hours of "calculation". Users notice that the (enterprise?) key is accepted and tell it works. MS will notice some volume keys are used too often wan will block them at the next wga update (and the next service pack)

Since MS cannot simply extract the leaked keys form the database they have a harder time to block them.

Note that theinquirer article is mostly speculation based on what the program claims to do, not on facts.... just as my writing here is.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (4, Informative)

Anonymous Conrad (600139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207206)

This is not a brute force hacker, but just a database of some key with a fancy interface on top that pretends to be calculation just just updates a progress bar. The database will release some key after some hours of "calculation". Users notice that the (enterprise?) key is accepted and tell it works. MS will notice some volume keys are used too often wan will block them at the next wga update (and the next service pack)
No, that's not how new the volume license system works. There's two classes of volume license key for Vista:
  • Multiple Activation Key - will only work a limited number of times
  • Key Management Services - requires a local license server that maintains the count of keys used and communicates with Microsoft
neither of which will work with your scheme.

Welcome to the non free world. (4, Insightful)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206992)

I don't see how this is possible, or credible speculation even for a company a evil as MS...

Sorry, that's their EULA. You have two choices when you purchase anything M$, return the package unopened for a full refund or use it. They do not and can not promise it will work and they are not responsible for the actions of others. They regard anything they do beyond the EULA a favor for which you should be grateful, just like they regard anything their software ever does for you. They think you should be so grateful that you do as they say. This is the nature of non free software. Your master may take care of you or they may not and those are the conditions you must agree to if you want to use non free software.

They don't trust you. They made the registration key in the first place to restrict the number of computers you can use before you pay them more. When you call and claim your key does not work, they can't tell the difference between you and someone who's shared their key. Once again, this is the nature of non free software.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Interesting)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207002)

I don't see how this is possible, or credible speculation even for a company a evil as MS is perceived on slashdot. I'm no MS fanboy, but I've had reasonable "service" from MS on issues of keys to activate my machines under some unusual circumstances.

This may get sticky for MS, but for goodness sake we've got to find better bashing material on MS (and I believe there be plenty) if we want to maintain any street cred. There's no WAY MS won't be giving license keys to legitimate purchasers of XP (especially considering the vast majority are pre-activated shelf-delivered versions).


I think you're probably right. However, all companies in similar situations don't act this way. A few years ago I bought a Russian-English translation program for my PC. I got the best one on the market. I didn't use it a lot, but it was useful to me for quick translations from Russian to English for email. At the time I didn't know Russian as well as I do now and while I could do translations by hand, it took a very long time. It was certainly worth the money to have a computer program do it for me in a few seconds and then I could double check the weird parts and re-translate those myself. It turned what might be a 2 hour translation job at the time into a 10 minute job at worse. A year or so later I had a catastrophic Windows failure and had to do a destructive reinstall. Although I had a valid license key for the translation program, it wouldn't work after the reinstall. The vendor told me their keys are valid for one use only and although I explained that I had bought the product (and they knew I had) and had to do a reinstall of Windows, I got basically "Too bad. So sad. Here's a 10% discount off our lowest price." in response, which still meant I had to buy the product at pretty close to it's normal value. I sucked it up and did that and installed my new key. However, I was very angry because I realized that to the software vendor if I needed a new key I was probably a thief and if I wanted another key, I was going to have to pay for it. After another year or so, guess what? Yep, I had to do another destructive reinstall of Windows. I decided not to rebuy the software. The babelfish translator, which is free, is not as good, but my Russian had improved a lot and I had less real use for a computer translation program. For as little as I needed to use one, babelfish was good enough. However, the vendor of the translation program has lost me forever as a customer because they weren't willing to give me the benefit of the doubt about my problem and my choice was either to buy a new key or live without the program. Their attitude was "If you need a new key, you're a thief". Since then a guy on a forum told me the magic needed to make old keys work on a reinstall, but I've never bothered with it.

Re:MS would owe at least the key (5, Funny)

ednopantz (467288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207078)

The slashbots are excited because this, *this* will be the thing that makes people go to desktop Linux.

Nobody will upgrade to XP--er.... Nobody will upgrade to Vista because of activation.

Yes! 199-, er...
2003, er....

2007 WILL BE THE YEAR FOR DESKTOP LINUX!!!

Re:MS would owe at least the key (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207434)

I give up. Where's the "funny" part?

Re:MS would owe at least the key (1)

dberstein (648161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207200)

There's no WAY MS won't be giving license keys to legitimate purchasers of XP (especially considering the vast majority are pre-activated shelf-delivered versions).

It's Vista not XP ;)

Pirates unite!! (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207218)

we've got to find better bashing material on MS (and I believe there be plenty)

Aargh, maytee, I too believe there be plenty. Ye OS shall be no match fer me sword, ya scallywag!

A bit self-defeating, wouldn't you say? (1)

babbling (952366) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207304)

They don't know who the legitimate customers are. If they just hand out keys to everyone and anyone, what was the point of the system in the first place?

Easy Fix (2, Insightful)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206664)

All Microsoft has to do is block the IP address that is requesting thousands of activations on separate, invalid keys per second.

Re:Easy Fix (4, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206680)

Lots of botnets run on windows ... I wonder if they could be commanded to scan for license keys.

Tom

Re:Easy Fix (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206708)

Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of These!

Re:Easy Fix (4, Informative)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206698)

I think the program actually tries the keys on its own algorithm, and when it finds a valid one it tells you to submit it to microsoft.

Re:Easy Fix (3, Informative)

richy freeway (623503) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206750)

You're right. You have to monitor your Vista key to see if it's changed, using the Jellybean Keyfinder. When you spot it's changed you have to manually attempt an activation. If it fails then you leave it running longer until the key changes again, then retry activation. Repeat until activation succeeds.

Re:Easy Fix (5, Informative)

Odiumjunkie (926074) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206780)

> All Microsoft has to do is block the IP address that is requesting thousands of activations on > separate, invalid keys per second. RTFA. That's nothing like how this works. The actual activation part is totally manual, only the key generation is automated. You can generate keys without any kind of network connectivity.

No Microsoft!!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206668)

YOU get bent!!!!! Turd swallowing butt pirates!!!

Sounds like a distributed computing project to me (5, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206694)

I can see it now: thousands of computers worldwide activating keys, just to make life miserable for Microsoft and users. It could be called the "annoy Microsoft Windows Users at home" project.

Re:Sounds like a distributed computing project to (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206858)

It could be called the "annoy Microsoft Windows Users at home" project.
AMWUAH project has been renamed "Vista" for consumers' sakes.

Re:Sounds like a distributed computing project to (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206868)

"I can see it now: thousands of computers worldwide activating keys, just to make life miserable for Microsoft and users. It could be called the "annoy Microsoft Windows Users at home" project."

Yes, but does it run under linux :-)

Re:Sounds like a distributed computing project to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207344)

Isn't that by definition, Linux?

Funny? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207118)

The parent is moderated funny. Well, I have no interest in Vista, but frankly I'd love to activate as many Vista keys as possible in order to make life miserable for anyone using it.

Re:Sounds like a distributed computing project to (1)

cswiger2005 (905744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207202)

I even had mod points, but you were already at +5 Funny (deservedly). I wonder which one, Seti@Home or this WindowsKeyGen@Home, will accumulate more CPU time overall next year...?

I also wonder if vendors are going to simply give up on using 20 or 25-character long activation codes, if they can be brute-forced in a reasonable period of time? Will they be switching to keyfile activation using hardware profile info (NIC ethernet MACs, motherboard/BIOS serial #, hard drive serial #, etc)? That seems to be happening more and more already...

How does it work? No chance key collisions I think (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207234)

The keys are nominally 25 digits long. It can try 10,000 keys every 30 minutes. Even if there is some checksum redundancy in the key itself 25 digits, especially if they include alpha characters, is a huge key space. I would have guessed that only a teeny tiny fraction of the key space was allowed but apparently not!

But I don't see any danger that a cracked key and a legit key would collide in that large a key space. The birthday attack (see wikipedia) tells you the probability of a collision is equivalent to a 12 digit key, which i'd assume must be nearing one in a trillion.

Since the program obviously has some algorithmic test of the key validity. MS blew it by making this space so promiscuously large that a 20,000key/hour guesser could crack it.

relax (5, Funny)

ohzero (525786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206696)

I guarantee you MSFT will release a patch to reorder license keys or figure out some other solution. If you were the largest software company in the world, and you had a product that was being touted as "more expensive than switching an entire IT department to OSX:, wouldn't you?

Perfect (1, Insightful)

db32 (862117) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206706)

Seems to me like a great opporunity for a shakedown. "We are sorry, but we cannot help you until we finish an investigation into your software licensing. If you need access you will have to purchase a new copy". They get to play like they are helping by paying a few MS shills to talk about how their cracked license recovery process was quick and painless and they don't understand anyones complaints. Then they get to scare people into walking away and buying new copies!

I don't have problems with any number of copy protection schemes. Granted they can eventually be defeated almost without fail, but it does rais the bar for the effort. PS disc error thing I think was a fairly clever method for example. I don't even really mind CD keys too much, although its irritating as hell to lose whatever they happened to write the code on (Is it too much to ask to print it on the damned disc?). But I absolutely refuse to touch any piece of software that requires some online activation type crap.

Except we know already what happens (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207128)

The problem of generated keys and conflict with legit keys isn't new, so we already know what happens. The same existed for XP -- plus the added collison of dishonest OEM's selling one legit serial number to 100 different people who bought their computers with XP preinstalled -- and we already know what Microsoft chose: to not annoy the paying customers. What it did try to do was go after the OEM's who did that, but _not_ after the victims. The victim never had to do more than call an (automated) telephone number and get another key. It's always been that simple.

Yes, there have been some fucktards too historically, but MS was sane about it so far. I'm not saying they're saintly or anything, feel free to still be anti-MS if it makes you feel any better. Just that their sane. Even if you want to see them as some kind of super-willain, well, as super-villains go, MS was the _sane_ kind so far. The kind who's read the evil overlord's list, not the random lunatic kind. It knows when _not_ to do something that would damage itself very quickly.

Look, there are plenty of real reasons to whine about MS, no need to invent bullshit FUD scenarios. That kind of going into bullshit fantasy land, just to have something bad to say about MS, just damages the credibility of the real complaints.

Re:Except we know already what happens (2, Insightful)

db32 (862117) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207406)

1. I have called them for problems with keys. Sometimes they hand a new key over the phone like its nothing, sometimes its flaming hoops of death and hours on hold. Hit or miss with that, but as to be expected from any large corporation that has gone through so many hoops to assume their customers are all criminals.
2. I'm not saying its some supervillian plan, I am saying this is the kind of horse shit that comes out of large money hungry beurocratic organizations. It's not really MS specific.
3. I think their product is a tolerable product for some things (right tool for the job stuff). I despise their business practices because the only reason their product IS a tolerable product for some things is because they successfully violated so many laws to make it the defacto standard. They are not innovative, the people who typically think they are have only ever been exposed to MS products and don't realize that the vast majority of the shit they do are poor 'embrace and extend' bastardizations of good ideas that came from other places.

Ultimately, they are a very large beurocratic money hungry organization with a piss poor track record of behaving ethically. They aren't the only organization like this, but they certainly are one of the biggest. In the meantime I am going to laugh at their horrible mistakes, their losing lawsuits, and the other nonsense monkey boy puts out. Their products are getting worse and they are less of a software giant and more of a comedy club these days anyways. "developers developers developers developers" "fuckign kill google!". I hope chair tossing becomes an olympic sport soon too.

Re:Perfect (1)

rednuhter (516649) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207174)

I hate it when the CD key is printed on the CD.
1: the font used is usually to small to be read and/or it is confusing for 0 and O (zero and oh) etc.
2: the damn disk is in the drive when the key prompt comes up nd I spend 3 hours searching in cd cases, boxes and manuals.
The answer, of course, is to require and activation key to be printed on an A0 poster, start lobbying now !

Er... (-1, Redundant)

Sirch (82595) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206720)

Why not limit each IP address to 10 (or other arbitrary limit) incorrect activations in a row, then lock out that IP until customer services unlocks it...

Or increase the reply time exponentially after an incorrect activation attempt.

Unless I'm mistaken, this is far from a vulnerability, just an annoyance. People have protected client-server password systems from bruteforce attacks in the ways mentioned above (and more!) for a heck of a long time...

Re:Er... (4, Funny)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206776)

Why not actually try to read the article to see how the program works?

Re:Er... (1)

jam244 (701505) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207236)

Why not actually try to read the article to see how the program works?
Welcome to Slashdot!

Re:Er... (1)

Alphager (957739) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207254)

Why not actually try to read the article to see how the program works?
I wonder who the hell thought this should be modded funny...

ATTENTION ALL SLASHDOT USERS WITH MODPOINTS!!!!!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206786)

MOD PARENT DOWN -1, REDUNDANT. THIS HAS ALREADY BEEN SUGGESTED 2 OR 3 TIMES IN THE COMMENTS!!!

Adage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206722)

The danger of this approach is that sooner or later the key cracker will begin activating legitimate keys purchased by other consumers.
Well, you know the old saying: "One man's danger is another man's Microsoft Vista Activation Key."

tough questions (3, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206738)

To make matters worse, Microsoft will have to decide if it is worth it to allow people to take back legit keys that have been hijacked, or tell customers to go away, we have your money already, read your license agreement and get bent, we owe you nothing.'

Hmmm, I wonder which way Microsoft will go on this one...

Re:tough questions (1)

Hebbinator (1001954) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206808)

Yeah, i thought that the end of this article summary was a little odd.. propaganda i say!

why wouldnt a company take a little loss to honor a legit customer's purchase? and who the heck thinks someone would buy two copies of vista if the first one they payed for didnt work??

don't ascribe silly ideas to a company because you dont like them. i think this kind of pontification on a news website is bad journalism of the highest degree.

Ironically... (4, Funny)

jejones (115979) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206742)

Just as I read this article, pandora.com started playing the title cut from David Wilcox's Vista album:

"...and the wide open vista..."

Really? (0, Redundant)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206774)

It seems unlikely that MS really screwed up this badly. Even given unfettered access to the key validation, it's trivial to construct a scheme wherein the odds of coming up with even a single valid key are essentially zero. If the scheme includes additional hashing to increase the work required plus a large enough key space, you're simply not going to find one.

of Red Hats and Yellow Pants (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206778)

Now, beaten and discouraged, the Slashdot community has switched gears on their FUD campaign against Windows. Since Linux is now far more insecure than Vista, and Vista running IE7 is far more secure than anything else, they have discarded that old saw about saying Windows is buggy or not secure, and are now actively advocating piracy.

Yep, if you can't beat them in the marketplace of ideas (with a free product, no less), than just help people steal.

Re:of Red Hats and Yellow Pants (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207192)

Once again some M$ paid moron. Why do we have some many of your kind here?
You're spreading FUD ABOUT Windows, and against Linux and real life facts.
Sod off and don't come back, you idiot.

Not too big of a deal (0)

boxless (35756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206810)

as someone who has worked on systems such as these (oh the inhumanity!) we have looked at this particular attack vector. Yes, it is possible. But, when you consider the size of the activation code domain (quadrillions or more of combinations), with the number of legitimate keys (hundreds of millions), and the fact that each request takes some amount of time (a few seconds), it's not too big of a risk. A risk? yes. But there are lots of risks. This is just another one to be put on the list, watched, and mitigated against (as others have said, with blocked IPs and so forth).

Re:Not too big of a deal (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206928)

Looking at the size of the Windows market, I would bet that the size of the legitimate keyspace is much larger than "hundreds of millions", probably by several orders of magnitude. It has to be large in order for this brute force search to work.

Re:Not too big of a deal (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207046)

I would bet that the size of the legitimate keyspace is much larger than "hundreds of millions", probably by several orders of magnitude

Several orders of magnitude? Are you suggesting that there are as many Vista keys as stars in the sky? I don't think this term means what you think it means.

Re:Not too big of a deal (2)

tomknight (190939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207250)

Why on earth not? Let's say several could be around five or so. So that's five orders of magnitude, 100,000. So do you really maintain that it's not possible to have 10,000,000 x 100,000 = 1,000,000,000,000 (1 x 10^12) keys? I don't the nature of the Vista licence key, but if they're using 25 alphanumerics that's 35^25 possible keys. That's a big number, c. 4 x 10^38 - now I doubt anyone here knows the ratio of valid keys to possible keys, but I dare say that 1 x 10^12 would fit in...

So what it come down to is that by attempting to expose someone else's ignorance you merely display your own.

And I'm sure someone else is about to say roughly the same about me, any time now ;-)

Re:Not too big of a deal (5, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206948)

"as someone who has worked on systems such as these (oh the inhumanity!) we have looked at this particular attack vector. Yes, it is possible. But, when you consider the size of the activation code domain (quadrillions or more of combinations), with the number of legitimate keys (hundreds of millions), and the fact that each request takes some amount of time (a few seconds), it's not too big of a risk. A risk? yes. But there are lots of risks. This is just another one to be put on the list, watched, and mitigated against (as others have said, with blocked IPs and so forth)."

Obviously someone else who didn't read either the article OR all the other user comments - no net connection required to generate the keys - the attempts to change the key are done locally; after a successful local key change, submit the new key for activation.

Blocked IPs won't do jack shit for such a scheme.

Also, you're not trying to find a specific key that works, just one of many, so even with a huge wrong-key space, you'll get a favourable collision with a valid key sooner, rather than later. Its like the same-birthday problem.

Re:Not too big of a deal (1)

boxless (35756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207050)

I did read the article. I didn't go to the site the article points to because I would need to create a login. But, if I read the article and take it at face value, it clearly talks about taking the key that has been 'cracked', and the using it to activate, by which the author means try to activate it against MSFTs servers. Why else does the author talk about the legitimate customers being pissed? If this attack required no connection with MSFT, then there is no issue with the legit customers. Their key will work too.

Just getting the key doesn't solve the problem. You have to get the key, and then get the other side of the pair that goes along with it. Of course, that could be brute forced as well, as I think you're saying. BUT that's not what the author is talking about.

Re:Not too big of a deal (1)

boxless (35756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207190)

OK
I stand corrected. I just found the like you're talking about. It's all client side.

Not much you can do about that.

Though, regarding those comments about affecting other legitimate users of Vista: it shouldn't affect them.

Re:Not too big of a deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207320)

FYI: Microsoft's keys are 25 alphanumeric characters. For simplicity's sake let's assume each character is worth 5 bits (they don't use uppercase o and i, for example, and case doesn't matter). That means we're looking at approximately 125bit long keys. That's more than 10^37 combinations. Let's say Microsoft issues 10^10 keys (more than people on this planet). Then you're looking at a 10^27 invalid combinations for every valid key. That's approximately 2^89. Let's say you can check a billion keys per second, then you're still looking at more than 30 billion years for one valid key.

If Microsoft didn't screw it up, this might just be an effective DoS attack on pirates that don't know math.

Re:Not too big of a deal (1)

boxless (35756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207394)

No one said it can't be done. But, with the brute force required, it's just a risk to be managed. Nothing more, nothing less.

Botnet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206852)

Sounds like a great job for a botnet. Distribute the requessts all over the internet. Avoid any IP address limits.

Predatory Pricing (1, Insightful)

toonerh (518351) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206870)

Microsoft has encouraged this obviously illegal tactic by its Vista License:
1) Too many variants
2) Too expensive an upgrade from XP
3) Limitation on which versions run virtualized.

Sadly, for MS, they have not emphasized it can creditably replace a several hundred dollar Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking install (I know, I've tried both)

Re:Predatory Pricing (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207056)

Actually..

I don't see the problem with the variants. Ever check how many different distribution of linux there are? Too expensive, sure, but the writer of the keygen is very doubtfule to earn much money with it. And the virtualization issue (not big for most users...) is nowadays only a license issue, i doubt the software limits it currently.

As for the Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking.. that still has some value , specially if they keep pointing a niche markets like languages MS does not support fully (lawyer speak eg?)

Re:Predatory Pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207140)

Hang on, I thought this was Slashdot?! You missed two steps there:

  1. Too many variants
  2. Too expensive an upgrade from XP
  3. Limitation on which versions run virtualized.
  4. ...
  5. Profit!

Ok, so it's Microsoft... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18206902)

it wouldn't suprise anyone if they screwed that up, but it isn't hard to create a key system that makes guessing impractical and generally uncrackable on the key generation side: Just cryptographicly sign random numbers with a private key at MS and verify the resulting registration key with the public key in the program. If the key is much longer than log2 of the number of issued keys, you can try until your grand-grand-grand-children have forgotten you ever existed and not find a real key. That can be circumvented only by disabling the check altogether or by replacing the public key with one to which you know the corresponding private key. But then comes activation and at that point MS can simply check all keys against a database of issued keys. Not only will they be able to find if you're using a key that wouldn't pass offline verification, they will also find if you're using a key which could have been issued but wasn't. You'd have bigger chances winning the lottery and buying a copy of Vista than to find a working key by guessing.

seems like a lot of work (0, Troll)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207096)

really, doesnt this seem like a lot of work to install something that doesnt work as well as what you have now? Just seems silly to bother..

microsoft is sitting back, watching and laughing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18207100)

Most enterprises are waiting until SP1 or SP2 before they even contemplate buying Vista. As Ballmer has stated, the Vista ramp will be slow and long.

So for the time being, Microsoft is watching what is going on with activation and feeding a new set of requirements into SP1. These new requirements will make the "easy" validation/registration hacks much harder, even possibly eliminating many of the loopholes. Microsoft is losing a bit of money, but not much. The people that don't buy software... are not much of a revenue stream. These requirements also go to Microsoft legal so they can get to work on making more activities illegal.

Hence, ironically, the only thing hacking Vista is doing is making Microsoft spend more money to change more laws to make all sorts of computer activities into crimes that can be brutally enforced by governments and police forces. By hacking Vista, the only people being helped are at Microsoft while the entire citizenry of the world pays a steep price. And police states are not known to be particularly innovative or supportive of change. So instead of doing anything positive, hacking Vista is merely killing the future.

If you want to work against the tyranny of Microsoft, the only way to do so is to let go of Microsoft and move to an open source system. Microsoft will have a much more serious problem when all the news is about people moving away from Microsoft, not news of how to get the latest Microsoft DRMware/malware/spyware/NWOware on your machine 'for free'.

The WOPR?? (1)

Berserker76 (555385) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207146)

I was wondering what he was up to these days.

They just better not mention anything about Global Thermonuclear War.

Many collisions with legit keys? I doubt it. (0, Redundant)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207282)

I just don't believe it. Validation time delays, and long cooling-off periods after too many unsuccessful attempts are such elementary security that I honestly can't believe Microsoft overlooked it.

Maybe maybe maybe one lucky hacker hit the jackpot and scored one key once or something like that.

I don't believe for an instant that a brute-force attack on a 25-digit number is going to score many legitimate activation keys that a) have actually been shipped to real customers and b) have not yet been used. There are only a few billions of people in this great world, and there are an awful lot of 25-digit numbers.

How many brute-force tries were they able to make? Let's say a billion. If they were able to get even one key by brute force in a billion tries, then one-in-a-billion 25-digit numbers must be valid activation keys, or 1^16. If there are ten billion extant copies of Vista, then the chances that a valid key has already been assigned would be one in a million.

So, of every key found by hackers using brute force, only one in a million will collide with an already-issued key.

No, this will not be a customer-relations nightmare for Microsoft, regardless of whether they elect to be nice or nasty when it happens.

Is this a HOAX? (2, Interesting)

Zo0ok (209803) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207314)

I couldnt find the download. People on Slashdot seems to be unusually confused about how this thing works - even those who claimed to read the article. I didnt find the article/method very confusing, but I dont know enough about Vista to tell if it COULD work or not. Are people confused because someone made something up that can not work? There are other cases where evil people have distributed trojans this way.

Is this a HOAX?

This has me curious... (2, Interesting)

jvkjvk (102057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207374)

Is is possible to create a program that simply activates Vista licenses? -- I mean, without having Vista at all. Just connects to MS and attempts to activate keys, all day long.

It would be like a DOS on the licensing mechanisms.

Having RTFA... (4, Informative)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 7 years ago | (#18207412)

AND having gone to the site and read through the ENTIRE thread on their forums;

What we have here is a random number/letter guesser. It's basically a VB Script that guesses random numbers and letters in a string that is the same length as a Vista Key, then inserts it into the registry, overwriting the existing Vista key. You use Magic Jellybean to check when the key has changed, and then manually check it against MS's activation service. Really this is little more than a person manually sitting down and making key guesses. This is why it's called a "Brute Force" attack. There is no intelligence (ie: an algorithm) behind the key guesses at all.

That said, because it IS so simple, it's almost impossible for MS to defend against, since they can't just "ban" any keys made by it like they would a traditional algorithmic keygen. Also, there is an improved version of it posted as source on the boards there, so if you want to take a peek at the code you can.

Here is a link to the forum post in question: http://keznews.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2634 [keznews.com]
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