Microsoft’s update to its anti-piracy tool is now available via Windows Update, the company has confirmed.
Called Windows Activation Technologies, or WAT, the update adds technology to detect some 70 activation exploits that pirates have come up with to bypass Windows 7’s activation protections, according to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).
“This update for Windows Activation Technologies helps detect validation errors and activation exploits. This update also detects any tampering attempts made to important Windows 7 system files,” Microsoft said in a Knowledge Base article describing the update.
The article adds that many hacked copies of Windows 7 are also infected with malware — malicious code meant to violate the user’s computer security, steal information or hold the PC hostage, for instance.
Microsoft initially made the update available through the Genuine Windows page and the Microsoft Download Center last week, according to a posting on the Genuine Windows blog.
“The update became available for manual download on the [Genuine Windows] site on Feb. 16, and has started being released more broadly via Windows Update on Feb. 22,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.
Unlike its predecessor, Windows Genuine Advantage, or WGA, WAT does not disable any of the features on a copy of Windows 7 that’s been hacked. Instead, it will periodically remind users that the copies of Windows 7 they are running appear to be pirated, and urge the users to remedy the situation.
Under WGA, copies of Windows that were suspected to be illegitimate were put into “reduced functionality” mode — a euphemism for almost completely shutting down the system. That behavior enraged some customers who either had, or believed they had, legitimate copies of the software.
That angst kindled a 2006 lawsuit against the company that was only dismissed in the past few weeks.
Downloading the WAT update is voluntary, and the update is tagged as “important” instead of “critical,” the company has said.
Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.