Vista keygen script - a hoax, but not impossible

Vista keygen script - a hoax, but not impossible

Summary: Computer User, the individual behind the Vista keygen script has admitted that the program was a joke, but this joke could lead to problems for Microsoft.

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TOPICS: Windows
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Computer User, the individual behind the Vista keygen script has admitted that the program was a joke, but this joke could lead to problems for Microsoft.

In a post on KezNews, Computer User said:

fact is the brute force keygen is a joke, i never intended for it to work. I have never gotten it to work, everyone should stop using it!

Engadget took this a step further, calling the script a "hoax."  They quoted me as having said that I'd "found two activation keys with this method," an exaggeration to say the least. Unlike many, I never claimed to have activated using these keys – only that Windows itself seemed to have accepted them

Whether Computer User intended for it to work or not, the truth is that the script that was released on KezNews is a brute force key generator for Windows Vista.  Why?  Because the script outputs 25-character keys that are of a similar format to Vista product keys.  This can be proved by modifying the script to output each key it generates to the screen.  That part is not a hoax or a joke.  Sure, it's a clumsy script, slow and inefficient, but it's true to the phrase "brute force."

The issue is not one of the script being a fake or not, it's whether it can generate a key that can be used to activate Windows Vista (Windows won't accept just any random combination of 25-characters as a product key).  What I found when I ran the script on my test install for a few hours was that the key changed twice from a default key generated by Windows to a different key (I checked this using the Magical Jellybean program that was bundled with the script).  For a combination of moral, legal and ethical issues, I didn't try activating the installation using the key that I believe was generated by this script (and it should be noted that the script doesn’t go off to try to activate it on its own – so the rumors that this hammered the activation servers are misguided).  My guess is that it wouldn't have worked because getting past Windows’ local validation checks would be a lot less stringent than getting past Microsoft's activation servers.  The reason for this is simple.  The checks done by Windows when you install the OS or change the key are pretty basic, while Microsoft's activation servers either a) know which keys have been issued (which would mean that you'd have to be lucky enough to hit a key that's been issued out of a key base that's about 167 bits large) or b) the servers know the range of valid keys that Microsoft is likely to issue, making the task of hitting a valid key a little easier … but it’s still a massive long shot.

I also think that it's important to clear up the meaning of the phrase "brute force" when used in context of this key generator.  Normally when people think of brute force they think of cracking say an encrypted file.  Here brute force is used to try to find the single key in a sea of keys that will decrypt the file (to put this into perspective this is like trying to find a single unique grain of sand hidden somewhere in the Sahara desert).  However, brute force against Vista product keys is a little different.  You're not trying to find that single glass slipper that fits Cinderella's foot, you're looking for one of many, many slippers that will fit.  How many?  Only Microsoft really knows.  Also, there are plenty of different versions of Vista to attack, so we have numerous Cinderellas, each capable of fitting an unknown number of slippers.

To be honest, if I were Computer User, given how big this story has become and how far and wide it's traveled, I'd want to play down this script too for legal reasons.  However, as Computer User is calling the script a joke over on KezNews, there are a number of users who claim to have activated Windows Vista using this technique.  Has anyone managed to do this?  I don't know and I have no way of proving this one way or another, but statistically the chances are low.  However, that doesn't rule out the possibility of it happening.  The only people who know for sure what the chances of this script actually generating a valid Windows Vista product key are Microsoft employees, and they're unlikely to tell us what the chances really are.

But whether anyone can get a working product key using this script and then use that key to activate a copy of Windows Vista is not the real issue here.  A far more serious side effect of this script is that it has rekindled interest within certain circles inside the cracking community in developing a working keygen for Windows Vista and Office 2007.  I've already seen discussions on reverse-engineering Vista code in order to discover the valid format for Vista product keys and also how fake the Windows activation process.  This is likely to be a mammoth task but given how quickly we've seen a few determined crackers defeat schemes such as AAAS, I think that it's quite likely that Microsoft will have to fend off more and more attacks on product keys and activation.  Windows Vista is a valuable commodity and cracking it would be extremely profitable for pirates.  It seems that the Pantheon group have released a crack that bypasses activation and relies on BIOS emulation.  I've not tried this crack myself but Pantheon are well known in the cracking community.  Whether this method survives WGA for long is another matter.  However, this crack is another indication that when it comes to product activation in Vista, Microsoft has been sloppy in implementing the process.  This same sloppiness could easily translate into how broad a product key base the company left open for Vista.

On the flip-side, if more working cracks hit the web, this will mean that Microsoft will respond by making WGA more stringent.  This could be bad for consumers because it could increase the chances of legitimate installations being marked as non-genuine. That, surely, has got to be the real story here.

Thoughts?

Topic: Windows

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14 comments
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  • The answer, wait a day.

    LOL, I just created a blog entry on how Vista's phone hone feature could lock it out of the corporate network (no ability to phone home, multiple key servers, etc) and the next morning I read how MS has a program to provide WGA free Vista for OEM consumption. So, the keygen script may or may not have been a hoax, here's the real thing.

    http://apcmag.com/5512/pirate_crack_vista_oem_activation

    TripleII
    P.S. Here is the link to the blog entry. It may well be a moot point now since, if you are big enough, you can tell MS to stuff WGA.

    http://mostly-linux.blogspot.com/2007/03/can-your-company-ever-upgrade-to-vista.html
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • and how much is MS saving?

      Back in the day of just sell, sell, sell, they made a mint. How many hundreds of millions have they spent, and will continue to spend on this. I can forsee the beancounters inside the company eventually raising the red flag where WGA has increased revenue by, say, 10%, while costing the company 3Xs the revenue increase from WGA.

      Microsoft, you need to get a grip. You will lose, you have lost, the anti-piracy batlle, get back to pre-XP WGA and focus on customer value, if not for your employees or your customers, do it for your stockholders.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • Just exactly how do you know ...

      ... this too is not a hoax? It seems to me the article in question doesn't offer a shread of proof that it works.
      ShadeTree
      • ShadeTree

        I have third-party confirmatiion from MS that this does work. Haven't tried it myself (have to say that in case I'm misquoted) but it won't work for long because WGA will be modified to detect it.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • Clarification ...

          A source at MS but not related to WGA.
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
          • Wait 'till Ou reads this

            From the APC article link:
            [i]Unlike cracks which have been floating around since Vista RTM was released in late November, this crack doesn?t simply get around product activation with beta activation files or timestop cracks - it actually makes use of the activation process. It seems that Microsoft has allowed large OEMs like ASUS to ship their products with a pre-installed version of Vista that doesn?t require product activation ? apparently because end users would find it too inconvenient.[/i]

            Wait 'till Ou reads this. It'll be ASUS [b]STRIKE THREE[/b]. lol

            Way to go AsusTek. But another Paradox in all its splendid glory, nestled in a Pantheon of dreams. One more reason the gearhead freaks luv ya! ;)
            klumper
          • I'm still skeptical!

            The OEM activation existed for XP but was even less secure and I have heard of no exploits. The Vista mechanism is far more secure.
            ShadeTree
          • Fair enough.

            Fair enough you are sceptical. I guess if your American you draconian anti-consumer laws won't even allow you to see if it works on your legitimate copy of Vista. However luckily not every country has such laws.

            I have purchased the retail version of Vista ultimate when it came out. Personally I should have waited until SP1 at least as I don't think it is ready so I am still using XP. However, I have been experimenting with all the various hacks that we get told about.

            The timerstop patch does work. But I wouldn't actually use it because it is actually a service you install and I don't trust it enough to not be used as a backdoor.

            Keygen. I think this actually will generate a valid key. If you read the thread's where computer user replies saying it is a hoax then you get the impression it actually isn't and that computer user is just trying to downplay what he has created because he never expected all the attention and is worried about his freedom.

            OEM activation - this works because it presents a hoax bios to the validation. It operates prior to vista booting. However it only works on certain motherboards. No doubt others will be released that emulate different bios. I am not sure how MS are going to get around this because I imagine if they blacklist the hack, they are going to blacklist a lot of genuine customers PC's as well.

            In fact, I imagine all the current hacks could be disabled with updates. But they have not been as yet.

            And finally, I couldn't care less for Vista anyway. I still wouldn't use it even if hadn't purchased it and used one of many hacks that work. I still prefer XP. However, unfortunately for MS I imagine I am in the minority in thinking that.
            Bozzer
          • Your secret is good with me

            [i]And finally, I couldn't care less for Vista anyway. I still wouldn't use it even if hadn't purchased it and used one of many hacks that work.[/i]

            For someone who couldn't care less about Vista, you sure are looking at all the ways and means to get her to fly, now aren't you? Not to worry, your secret is good with me. ;)
            klumper
          • Interesting!

            "I guess if your American you draconian anti-consumer laws won't even allow you to see if it works on your legitimate copy of Vista"

            Maybe the only reason we have such laws is because we produce the majority of the content people are stealing! Maybe if your country actually had a legitimate stake in the game you would have similar laws. Just a thought.
            ShadeTree
      • I scanned blogs, etc

        I found 5 or so independant blogs where they stated success, and it turns out, fairly easy success. You are right, I can only know what I read, and try to independantly confirm, but given the diversity of the blogs, q
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
      • I scanned blogs, etc

        I found 5 or so independant blogs where they stated success, and it turns out, fairly easy success. You are right, I can only know what I read, and try to independantly confirm, but given the diversity of the blogs, it would be quite a coup to pull it off.

        If it turns out to be untrue, I will certainly remove the link from my blog, with full disclosure.

        TripleII
        TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • Thanks for the link

      So Microsoft has finally partially done what they should have done a while ago: have the OS validate against hardware in the computer. Hmmm, what other OS company does that? Hmmm... oh yeah, Apple! Apple forces you to buy Apple hardware so that OSX can validate itself. MS, on the other hand, allows you to buy from ASUS, HP, Acer, etc. and have Vista validate against the BIOS or you can buy from [b]anyone[/b] (or even build your own) and validate over the Internet or by phone.

      Apple = no choice
      MS = many choices
      Linux = ultimate choice

      Seems obvious to me that Apple isn't even in the running when "freedom of choice" is a parameter in your computing platform decision.
      NonZealot
    • They say it works

      People at various torrent sites who downloaded the Paradox Vista crack are reporting it works.

      Not all are experiencing success, but most are.
      Hugh G. Rection