A report reveals details on Microsoft's controversial
product-activation technology, but concluded that it allows for reasonable
upgrades and doesn't threaten customers' privacy
A German copy-protection company has published details of Microsoft's
technology for preventing casual copying of Windows XP, but concluded the
technology allows for reasonable upgrades and doesn't threaten customers'
"We contribute technical facts to a discussion that is currently characterised
by uncertainty and speculation about XP," Thomas Lopatic, chief technology
officer for the company and an active member of the security community,
said in a statement.
Microsoft's product-activation technology -- included in the new Office
XP software package and scheduled to appear in the new Windows XP operating
system -- requires
people to activate their PC online or by telephone to continue using the
It has attracted criticism from both privacy advocates and customers.
[I KNEW IT WAS COMING
TO THIS POINT 5 YEARS AGO, AN UMBILICAL CORD TO THE MOTHER 'BEAST' COMPUTER
Many have worried that minor changes to a PC's configuration may require
people to reactivate their copy of Windows XP, while others have
been concerned about the amount of information Microsoft could collect
In a paper published on the Web on Monday, start-up company Fully Licensed
found there's little to fear.
The paper discloses that Windows XP activation uses the IDs of 10 different
hardware components to form the basis of a PC's fingerprint and proves
that such fingerprints cannot be used to identify individuals.
]THATS A LIE, IF YOU USE A CREDIT CARD OR
CHECK TO BUY THE COMPUTER OR ANY PART OF IT, THEY HAVE YOUR NAME.]
Among the components that make up the hardware ID are a hard drive's
volume serial number, the network card's MAC address and the identification
string for the CD-ROM drive, the graphics card, and the microprocessor.
While the paper reveals details of the product-activation process Microsoft
had sought to keep secret, it seems to support the company's assertions
that product activation does not threaten privacy and will not be a burden
to consumers when they upgrade a computer.
"Since our analysis proves that the transmitted information is
completely innocuous, we are surprised that Microsoft has been
that vague about the inner workings of WPA for all these months," Matthias
Kunze, managing director of Fully Licensed, said in a statement.
A Microsoft representative said that Fully Licensed let the company
see the report before publication, and that while it had some errors, the
paper was largely technically correct.
"The conclusions in fact support many of the statements we have made
already about product activation: We respect users' privacy, and the vast
majority of users will never have to reactivate once they activate initially,"
the representative said.
Microsoft also did not worry that the published details may lead hackers
to find a way around the activation process.
"There is no security issue here," the representative
said. "Companies and individuals research, decompile and review our code
all the time. There is nothing in the report that can aid hackers."
See also: ZDNet UK's Windows
XP News Section.
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