updated 11:21 am EST, Wed November 21, 2012
Promotional upgrade performs activation on leaked version
A security flaw in Windows 8 has seen Microsoft unintentionally issue pirates of its latest operating system with a free security key. A version leaked in August that required the use of a third-party server offering Key Management Services activated copies for 180 days, but a promotional upgrade by the company now turns these illegitimate copies into fully activated installations.
The free upgrade keys to add in Windows Media Center functionality to Windows 8 apparently does not check if the existing Windows 8 key is legitimate or not, only checking if the system has been activated. The upgrade does not even check if the activation was through the third-party server or via Microsoft itself, meaning that the system will apply the upgrade regardless, and since the WMC key is unique for each user and free to pick up from Microsoft, it effectively replaces the existing product key and activates the system permanently.
Spotted and described by a user on Reddit, the initial post has since been amended to remove the more compromising parts of the explanation, but has still left enough to explain how the process takes place.
Now that the flaw is out in the open, it is likely for Microsoft to make some changes to help prevent this from continuing, though it may be some time before the company completely solves the problem.