Microsoft steps up its efforts against pirates with the Software Protection Program

Microsoft is taking the fight to software pirates and is stepping up its anti-piracy efforts with Windows Vista and Windows "Longhorn" Server. The "Software Protection Program" as it's called will disable key Vista components for non-genuine installations. Likewise, Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0 will make it harder for pirates to get away with using volume license keys. While Vista and Windows "Longhorn" Server will be the first products to use the Software Protection Program, Microsoft hopes to extend the technology to other software products in the near future.

With the Software Protection Program, customers will be asked to activate their copy of Vista with a valid product key within 30 days of installation. If the user fails to do so, the operating system will operate in a "reduced functionality mode." In reduced functionality mode, users will not have access to ReadyBoost, the Windows Aero user interface, Windows Defender or optional software updates. Users will, however, still be able to access critical security updates from Windows Update.

Microsoft also has the option to deem an installation of Windows Vista invalid at any time. Cori Hartje, director of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative goes on to explain:

If the software is discovered to be counterfeit or non-genuine, the user may be asked to reactivate their copy of Windows. Product keys can be blocked for a number of reasons, including if the product key is abused, stolen, pirated or seized as a result of anti-piracy enforcement efforts. Product keys can also be blocked if they are beta or test keys and have been disabled, if there were manufacturing errors in the keys or if the keys have been returned.

For corporate customers, Microsoft Volume Activation 2.0 is in place to deliver increased protection and management of customer volume license keys in managed and non-managed environments. “This helps provide a more secure deployment solution with multiple, flexible options for customers using volume license keys to deploy many installations of the Windows Vista operating system in one location. This process can be done in batches or individually by PC,” said Hartje. “These improved security and deployment technologies for volume licensing keys benefit customers by reducing the risk associated with the theft, leakage and illegal use of their volume licensing keys, as well as ensuring that the copies of Windows in an organization have not been tampered with.”

Software piracy is a major thorn in the side of Microsoft and it's doing everything in its power to help combat the issues with its next generation software products. Hartje remarked that 35% of all software installations worldwide were pirated or unlicensed in 2005 resulting in industry losses of $35 billion USD.

For more details on Microsoft’s Software Protection Program, you can view the company’s white paper (.doc).

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