Revulytics Blog

Consequences of an Anti-Piracy False Positive, Microsoft's Big Licensing Mistake and Another Delay for the Copyright Alert System - Week in Review 12/2/2012

December 3, 2012

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Welcome back to V.i. Labs’ weekly update on software license compliance and piracy. This week we cover an anti-piracy misfire, Microsoft's licensing mistake and the most recent delay to the Copyright Alert System. Read on and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Google+ and our RSS feed to get the latest news.

Anti-Piracy Mechanism Accidentally Triggers on Legitimate Customers

GameMaker Studio, an application for making video games, implemented a clever way of deterring piracy. If a pirated copy was detected GameMaker would automatically – and irreversible – overwrite user-created game assets with a skull and crossbones. Unfortunately for GameMaker’s developer, YoYo, and many of its customers, the anti-piracy mechanism triggered on a false positive, leaving users stuck with permanently corrupted files.

To the relief of its customers, Yoyo has been quick to post a solution and to offer a patch for the glitch. Despite this hiccup, however, the company has no plans to drop or weaken GameMaker’s DRM. Instead, Yoyo plans on moving towards “more passive methods to help protect innocent users who through no fault of their own, somehow trigger [the anti-piracy mechanism.]”

Perhaps, with better software license intelligence, Yoyo could have avoided this mess in the first place.

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Microsoft Accidentally Hands Out Windows 8 Keys to Pirates

Up until last week, pirated versions of Windows 8 had to be reactivated every 180 days to bypass Microsoft’s security. Now however, some clever pirates have discovered an exploit where Microsoft will permanently activate their pirated copy for free - ironically placing one of the most aggressive companies in the fight against software piracy in the position of handing out working licenses to pirate users.

The exploit takes advantage of Microsoft’s current promotion offering Windows 8 users a free upgrade to Windows Media Center (WMC). The WMC upgrade doesn’t check the local computer to see if the installed Windows 8 is valid and, when applied, supplies the computer with a “legitimate” Windows 8 activation. So users who had a pirated version of Windows can simply visit the WMC website to grab an activation key that turns their pirated version legit.

The exploited promotion only runs until January 31, 2013, so the window for free Windows is closing; hopefully limiting Microsoft’s exposure to only a small set of well informed pirates.

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ISP Six Strike Program Pushed Back Again

The Copyright Alert System has been delayed yet again, this time until early 2013. The Copyright Alert System, best known for its “six strike” anti-piracy program, was announced by the major participating ISPs back in July of 2011 and slated to be deployed a few months later in December. Since then it has been pushed back two times, first to July 2012 then to December 2012, making this the third delay.

The Center for Copyright Information, the industry group behind the alert system, cited “unexpected factors largely stemming from Hurricane Sandy,” as the primary reason behind the latest holdup.

The Copyright Alert System is a program voluntarily agreed to by a number of major U.S. ISPs in order to stop piracy. The agreement outlines a six strike anti-piracy policy, however each ISP was left to design its own implementation of the system. Participating ISPs include AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon. Other large ISPs such as Charter, Cox and RCN have so far declined to take part in the Copyright Alert System.

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Victor DeMarines

Post written by Victor DeMarines

Vice President, Products & Strategy at Revulytics

Victor DeMarines brings extensive security product management and marketing experience to Revulytics, where he is responsible for product strategy and direction. He is a frequent speaker and author on topics including piracy, reverse engineering and the protection of intellectual property.