Hackers rumored to have cracked Windows 7 activation

Chinese forum and others suggest a leaked Lenovo file of Windows 7 Ultimate has been used to crack the activation mechanism of the new operating system.

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
2 min read

Microsoft only just released final code for Windows 7 to manufacturers and the company is already facing a security risk.

The Windows Genuine Advantage antipiracy system in the Windows 7 Ultimate release to manufacturers (RTM) has reportedly been compromised by some Chinese hackers, according to a variety of Chinese forums, and first reported by Neowin.com.This means the user can fully activate the software offline without connecting to Microsoft's activation server.

The software's RTM code is generally the same as the retail code, which will be available to the public in October. PC makers tend to get the final product with plenty of time in advance of the launch to make their products ready on the launch date.

It must have been a complicated process, but in a nutshell, hackers reportedly used the leaked ISO file to get hold of the activation certificate that Microsoft digitally signed for the original equipment manufacturer, or OEM version of Windows 7. It's rumored that the key that got hacked is one that can be used to activate multiple OEM-branded installations, such as Dell's, HP's, or, of course, Lenovo's.

I am no fan of the activation, (it's a pain when you change computer parts, which I do very frequently) but this is rather upsetting news. I am sure, in no time, you will be able to buy a copy of Windows 7 in China or Vietnam for less than a dollar.

Addressing this, Microsoft released a this statement to CNET News:

We are aware of reports of activation exploits that attempt to circumvent activation and validation in Windows 7, and we can assure customers that Microsoft is committed to protecting them from counterfeit and pirated software. Microsoft strongly advises customers not to download Windows 7 from unauthorized sources. Downloading Windows 7 from peer-to-peer Web sites exposes users to increased risks--such as viruses, Trojans, and other malware and malicious code--that usually accompany counterfeit software. These risks can seriously harm or permanently destroy data and often expose users to identity theft and other criminal schemes.