Microsoft must be extremely unhappy with the “quality” of the cracks available for Vista right now. Earlier this month we showed that the Vista OEM BIOS crack is still alive and kicking in Vista SP1 despite claims by Microsoft that those types of cracks had been patched. I would mark that up as an “oops” by Microsoft.

The Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) team is flexing their muscles at all of the hackers out there right now though. Later this month Microsoft is going to release an update (via Windows Update) for both the RTM and SP1 copies of Vista that will notify users if they are running a pirated copy of Vista:

Gold and SP1-installed systems [will] detect the presence of the Grace Timer and OEM BIOS exploits then alert the customer of their presence. The dialog box (shown below) also provides customers with guidance about what they can do to fix it and provides a Web link for more details, so that customers can learn about the particular exploit and learn how to disable and remove it. If they are a victim of software piracy, the linked Web pages will provide information on how to get genuine software.

cracked version of vista

They then go on to say what the users will experience that are running Vista with one of the activation workarounds installed:

The timing of when customers will first see the “Activate Your Copy of Windows” message can vary depending on what exploit is running on their system. Customers whose systems have the OEM BIOS exploit, for example, may not see anything for 15 days due to the way activation was set up for our OEM partners. Systems that have the Grace Timer exploit will be immediately prompted to activate once SP1 is installed.

The update will not uninstall or disable the exploits that it finds, but a separate tool will be available to users who wish to do so. They expect that the next release of the exploitation analyzer will include the tool needed to remove the any of the activation workarounds. From what I gather the tool will not deactivate the system nor will it mark Vista as not genuine, but it’s possible that I’ve misunderstood just how this is going to work.

What I’m left wondering is whether Microsoft has plans to push out a new update to Service Pack 1 that is able to detect some of the additional OEM BIOS cracks that are out there. Those of you who are running pirated copies of Vista better tread lightly because Microsoft is coming after you! ;)