Weekend reports that Windows 7's product activation system has been cracked - less than a month after the new Microsoft operating system was officially released - come as no surprise, says application vulnerability vendor Fortify.
There are two applications moving around online. Dubbed RemoveWAT and Chew-WGA, the applications work in different ways to remove the need to license a legal copy of Microsoft’s newest operating system, by tricking it into thinking it’s registered. In the past, such applications were quite common, so it is no shock to see them for Windows 7.
Shortly after Vista was released, there were tools to fool WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) into thinking the software was registered, and each time Microsoft moved to block them, more would appear. In Windows 7, WGA has been given a new “friendly name” which is Windows Activation Technologies or WAT for short.
"The RemoveWAT utility - also known as ChewWGA - exploits at least one of several probable security flaws on Windows 7 to allow a user to bypass the Windows Genuine Advantage registration procedure," said Richard Kirk, Fortify's European director.
"This type of crack appeared shortly after Windows Vista went on sale in January 2007 and was solved when Microsoft issued an update. Similar utilities for Windows XP also started appearing in the summer of 2005, shortly after the Windows Genuine Advantage system was made mandatory in July of that year," he added.
According to Kirk, the reason these flaws exist - which Microsoft promptly patches after they appear in the wild - is the millions of lines of program code that go into a modern operating system, which makes it extremely difficult to ensure security.
There is another issue to contend with as well, considering the known risks associated with application cracks. “Trojanized versions of RemoveWAT and Chew-WGA soon will be available on websites and file-sharing networks near you,” wrote Tom Kelchner on the Sunbelt Software blog.
The two applications are widely available online. We won’t pretend that they cannot be found without linking to them. However, when you use them, you take your system stability and security into your own hands. Then again, if you are actively cracking software you already know this.
“…it’s likely to be easily detected and nullified by Microsoft, especially in next [WTA] update or Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. In fact, [the] Software Protection Platform (SPP) has been [able to] effectively counter unauthorized [edits] of system files, which may result in [the]features or functionality [sic] Windows [being] deactivated, reduced, disabled or removed, causing various error messages when user wants to perform certain action,” said the person who authored the original story on the two crack applications.
[Source: My digital Life, quote edited for clarity by TTH Staff.]
Microsoft has said they are working to circumvent the methods used by RemoveWAT and Chew-WGA, but did not disclose how or when those measures will be pushed to the public.