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Symantec fixes product activation glitch

The security software maker patches a flaw in its product activation technology that was causing its Norton family of security applications to fail.

Security software maker Symantec has fixed a problem in the company's product activation technology that was causing its Norton family of security applications to fail.

The problem, as previously reported by CNET, affected a small percentage of the more than 1.2 million users of the company's Norton Antivirus 2004, Norton Internet Security 2004, Norton Antispam 2004 and Norton SystemWorks 2004. For those customers, the applications would mistakenly ask for a product activation code every time a PC was rebooted, and eventually the program would become locked.

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"We had a problem with the way we were generating a code for a PC configuration," said Del Smith, senior product manager for Symantec. "The problem had to do with a specific type of configuration. It was not related to any specific PC manufacturer."

Product activation, which uses a remote database to essentially lock a copy of a program to a single PC, has gained acceptance among software makers as a tactic to defeat software piracy. However, the digital-rights management technology adds complications to product installation, turning off many consumers. Intuit, for example, backtracked on its launch of the technology after many PC users had problems installing TurboTax, software that the company protected using product activation technology from Macrovision.

Product activation generally works by generating a specific code from a computer's hardware configuration. However, Symantec's procedure for generating that code made the same PC look different every time it was rebooted, Smith said.

The problem affected less than 0.5 percent of customers who had bought a Norton 2004 product, Smith said.

The patch, posted on Symantec's Web site last Wednesday, will allow users to reregister their products correctly.