Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage team have responded to this week’s news that a Windows 7 Ultimate licensing hack had been identified. After a Lenovo OEM Windows 7 image leaked and was used to extract a license key, Microsoft have worked with the manufacturer to blacklist the rogue key and replace it – on genuine Lenovo PCs bought with the new OS – with a working version.
Yesterday we were alerted to reports of a leak of a special product key issued to an OEM partner of ours. The key is for use with Windows 7 Ultimate RTM product that is meant to be pre-installed by the OEM on new PCs to be shipped later this year. As such, the use of this key requires having a PC from the manufacturer it was issued to. We’ve worked with that manufacturer so that customers who purchase genuine copies of Windows 7 from this manufacturer will experience no issues validating their copy of Windows 7. At the same time we will seek to alert customers who are using the leaked key that they are running a non-genuine copy of Windows. It’s important to note that no PCs will be sold that will use this key.
Windows 7 already includes an improved ability to detect hacks, also known as activation exploits, and alert customers who are using a pirated copy. There is a hack that is said to enable, when paired with the leaked key, a system to install and use a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate. Both the hack and the key are indications that a copy of Windows may not be genuine. The Windows Activation Technologies included in Windows 7 are designed to handle situations such as this one, and customers using these tools and methods should expect Windows to detect them.
Anyone attempting to use the leaked OEM key will be warned that they are attempting to use a pirated license and, presumably, not be allowed validate their copy of the OS. The WGA team goes on to highlight Windows 7′s new activation technology systems, and suggest that they will do a better job of identifying hacks based on leaked keys.
As Long Zheng of istartedsomething points out, however, this sort of collaboration with Lenovo won’t work quite so well once OEM keys begin leaking that have already been used for shipping products. At that point, the strength of Windows 7′s anti-piracy systems will really get their test.