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Microsoft will use the upcoming release of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to disable the two most widely used exploits of the operating system’s activation process, as well as do away with the system that reduces access to features and functionality for those users with counterfeit or nonvalidated software.

The Vista SP1 update will make changes to the underlying code to prevent the two primary types of exploits that pirates currently use to generate counterfeit versions of Windows Vista: the OEM BIOS exploit and the Grace Timer exploit.

The moves come even as Microsoft officials say piracy is on the decline. “We’re seeing indications from internal metrics, like WGA validation failures, that the Vista piracy rate is less than half that of [Windows] XP today,” Alex Kochis, Microsoft’s group product manager for Windows Genuine Advantage, told eWEEK.

The OEM BIOS exploit has two basic variants. The first involves directly editing system files and the BIOS of the motherboard to present information to indicate to the system that the copy of Windows had been installed by an OEM in a factory environment.

Click here to read more about Windows Vista SP1.

The other variant is software-based and tries to do the same thing by intercepting some of the calls to the BIOS and returning a result expected in a factory-based install, Kochis said.

For its part, the Grace Timer exploit resets the 30-day grace time limit between installation and activation. One of these, known as the 2099 hack, pushes that out to the year 2099.

Kochis acknowledged that any user who chooses not to install the SP1 update would not be affected by these changes.

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