Vista SP1 to drop ‘kill switch’, disable exploits

The upcoming Service Pack 1 update for Windows Vista will introduce changes to the operating system’s copy protection scheme, according to a statement released by Microsoft today. In the statement, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Windows Product Marketing Mike Sievert explains:

Although our overall strategy remains the same, with SP1 we’re adjusting the customer experience that differentiates genuine from non-genuine systems in Windows Vista and later in Windows Server. Users whose systems are identified as counterfeit will be presented with clear and recurring notices about the status of their system and how to get genuine. They won’t lose access to functionality or features, but it will be very clear to them that their copy of Window Vista is not genuine and they need to take action.

Sievert specifies that the new scheme will depart from the one built into existing copies of Windows Vista, which locks the operating system into a "reduced functionality mode" if users fail to activate it after 30 days. The reduced functionality mode allows users to log on for one hour only, and it disables built-in games as well as "premium" features like the Aero Glass visual interface, ReadyBoost flash drive caching, and BitLocker data encryption.

Together with the change of policy, Microsoft says SP1 will include updates that will disable the two main exploits used by pirates to circumvent Vista’s copy protection. One is the OEM BIOS exploit, which mimics "a type of product activation performed on copies of Windows that are pre-installed by OEMs in the factory." The other is known as the Grace Timer exploit, which modifies Vista’s "grace timer" in order to give users until 2099 to activate.

Vista SP1 is currently scheduled to come out in the first quarter of next year, according to Microsoft’s service pack roadmap.

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