Windows Server 2003 key leaked, already

— 2:47 AM on April 8, 2003

More than two weeks before the operating system's official release, a registration code for Windows Server 2003 has found its way onto the Internet. The code will apparently work with three different versions of the new operating system, but Microsoft should be able to contain at least some of the damage:

A Microsoft spokeswoman said there is no Windows Server 2003 mechanism for disabling software identified as having been installed using a stolen code. In theory, such a mechanism might be capable of disabling software during a routine update with one of Microsoft's Web servers.

Those copies of the software installed using the leaked code "won't be able to install future updates or service packs of access Windows Update," the spokeswoman said.

Windows XP's first service pack wouldn't install on systems using widely-leaked corporate keys, so that's nothing new. However, if the "future updates" Microsoft refers to include critical updates and security patches, pirates will have to work harder to stay one step ahead of the Redmond software giant.

It seems unlikely that Microsoft will ever be able to halt the flow of legitimate corporate keys onto the Internet, but it's certainly within their power to force pirates to acquire a fresh key for each new Windows Update download. Then again, it's probably only a matter of time before someone releases a utility that can generates corporate keys on the fly. Such a utility already exists for Windows XP, and it's effectively killed Microsoft's ability to police corporate keys.

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