Microsoft will be pushing a new Windows Activation Technologies (WAT) update before end of February for Windows 7 users with a set of anti-piracy measures which would disable more than 70 known hacks and cracks used by pirates to activate illegal copies of the software.
In an official blog post by Joe Williams, General Manager, Genuine Windows the company announced the new update stating :
Activation exploits are sometimes called “hacks”, and attempt to bypass or compromise Windows’ activation technologies. This new update is further evidence of Microsoft’s commitment to keeping customers and partners secure. The update will determine whether Windows 7 installed on a PC is genuine and will better protect customers’ PCs by making sure that the integrity of key licensing components remains intact.
So, what are the risks of activation exploits? Searching for, downloading, or installing activation exploits or counterfeit software on the Internet is risky, because sites that advertise these pirated products often contain malware, viruses, and Trojans, which are found bundled with or directly built into the activation exploit or counterfeit software. A study by research firm IDC, The Risks of Obtaining and Using Pirated Software, shows that one in four Web sites offering counterfeit software attempted to install unwanted or malicious code upon downloading. And this rate is rising. Media Surveillance, an anti-piracy solutions company based in Germany, recently downloaded more than five hundred pirated copies of Windows 7 (and Windows activation exploits) and found that 32% contained malicious code. These are very disturbing figures – especially when considering that resellers may be using these downloads to claim that the PCs they sell include genuine Windows.
The update will be marked as “Important” and will get distributed first to the Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise editions, one thing worth watching here is that what will happen to pirates who have completely removed WAT from there computers using one of the most popular Windows 7 activation hack RemoveWAT - what will get updated if the feature is completely removed from the OS ?
The answer to the question above could be speculated from the official announcement which details how this new update will work :
Once installed, the Update protects customers by identifying known activation exploits that may affect their PC experience. If any activation exploits are found, Windows will alert the customer and offer options for resolving the issue – in many cases, with just a few clicks. Machines running genuine Windows 7 software with no activation exploits will see nothing – the update runs quietly in the background protecting your system. If Windows 7 is non-genuine, the notifications built into Windows 7 will inform the customer that Windows is not genuine by displaying informational dialog boxes with options for the customer to either get more information, or acquire genuine Windows. The desktop wallpaper will be switched to a plain desktop (all of the customer’s desktop icons, gadgets, or pinned applications stay in place). Periodic reminders and a persistent desktop watermark act as further alerts to the customer.
It is important to know that the customer will see no reduced functionality in their copy of Windows – a customer’s applications work as expected, and access to personal information is unchanged. The Update will run periodic validations (initially every 90 days). During validation, Windows will download the latest ‘signatures’ that are used to identify new activation exploits – much like an anti-virus service. When tampering, disabling, or missing licensing files are discovered, the WAT Update runs a check and repair weekly to ensure that the licensing files are properly repaired.
As this update looks like a separate download from WAT it will be possible to detect WAT removal from user computer and decide that the copy is indeed a pirated one.