Windows 8 Pirates Aided by New Software Update

Dennis Faas's picture

A Microsoft special offer has unintentionally made it much easier for software pirates to run bogus copies of Windows 8. But the loophole works only for particularly determined pirates.

The loophole centers around the way Windows users activate their software. Each copy of Windows has a unique "key," which Microsoft checks to ensure the software copy is valid and not already in use by another registered owner.

If the software's key passes these checks, the software copy is activated. Without activation within a certain period, Windows will begin to severely limit its functionality, mostly to irritate the user into properly activating his or her copy of the operating system.

Piracy Workaround Exploits Business Benefit

Normally, home users have their computers contact Microsoft directly.

For large businesses running a network, however, that could prove a lengthy process. So Microsoft allows these enterprises to use Key Management Service, which sets up a local server to verify each computer's copy of Windows 8.

Software pirates now say they've found ways to create a bogus Key Management Service, allowing them to activate pirated copies of Windows. They can also generate activation keys and offer them to other users.

The big limitation with this pirate strategy is that Key Management Service requires a computer to reactivate its copy of Windows 8 every 180 days.

When reactivation is called for, however, the original key a pirate used will no longer work. The pirate will need to go through the bogus reactivation process again.

For anyone trying to pirate Windows 8 on a large scale, this will likely prove a major hassle, and possibly a deterrent to such theft.

Windows 8 Pro Piracy Becomes Permanent

Microsoft's recent special offer involves a Windows Media Center upgrade for Windows 8 Pro, which pirates appear to be exploiting successfully to bypass the Key Management Service limitation.

When a user installs the upgrade, his or her copy of Windows is automatically activated, even if it was originally activated through Key Management Service.

So pirates who have installed an illicit copy of Windows 8 Pro will now be able to keep running it without the need for further activation, simply by installing the Media Center upgrade. (Source:

This isn't a legal loophole, of course. Anyone who activates pirated Windows software this way is committing a deliberate and planned breach of copyright laws.

Pirates who exploit this loophole remain in full danger of being discovered and prosecuted. (Source:

Its an unfortunate and unintended consequence of the Media Center upgrade that some observers say could lead to both increased incidences of piracy and higher prices for legitimate Windows 8 buyers.

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