The release of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 not only heralded a long-awaited update of the operating system, it also meant the end of two common Windows Vista anti-activation exploits - the Grace Timer exploit and the Paradox OEM BIOS activation crack. But those who think they can escape by not updating to Service Pack 1 would be sadly mistaken.
That's because Microsoft has surreptitiously released an anti-hack detection update via Windows Update. Those who chose to have Windows Vista install updates automatically would have this update installed and running by now. If you chose to manually select updates to be installed, you should find this update listed
You can see that the KB940510 update is listed as Important. At this point, most users would assume it's an important patch that fixes flaws in Windows Vista and install it. Double-click on the update and you will find this short description.
Microsoft describes the KB940510 update as such :
This update enables Windows Vista to detect activation exploits that bypass product activation and that interfere with usual Windows operation. An exploit is a form of software that replaces or modifies authentic Windows components. When exploits are present on a system, it indicates that a software or hardware vendor may have tampered with genuine Windows to enable the sale of counterfeit software. Therefore, the security and the privacy of the computer are put at risk. After this update is installed, you will know if exploits are present on the system.
In truth, the KB940510 update installs an anti-hack detector that looks for the two most common hacks - the Grace Timer exploit and the Paradox OEM BIOS activation crack. If none of them are detected, then the update silently exits.
If these exploits are detected though, you will be sent to a Microsoft website that will teach you "how you can remove the exploits". Removing the exploits will require you to use a valid product key to activate Windows Vista. However, if you refuse to remove the exploits, Windows will disable them anyway, forcing you to activate Windows Vista using a valid product key.
Currently, KB940510 appears to detect only the Grace Timer and the Paradox OEM BIOS hacks. Both the hardware SLIC BIOS mod and the software Vista Loader hack are not affected.
If you do not wish to install this update, you can ignore and hide it. Just right-click on the update in Windows Update and select Hide update. However, Microsoft may eventually require you to install this update should you wish to receive further updates on Windows Updates, just like what they did with the WGA update in Windows XP. It's a matter of time really.
Do note that this update cannot be uninstalled or rolled-back (AFAWK). If it is installed into a PC with a hacked version of Windows Vista, then the only way to remove it would be to reinstall Windows Vista and avoid the update.
For more information on Windows Vista and Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista, take a look at these links :
Microsoft Windows Vista Review
Installing Windows Vista For N00bs
Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Candidate Release Preview Details
What's New In Windows Vista Service Pack 1?
ED#77 : Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Out Next Week!
ED#81 : Confirmed Schedule Of Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 Releases
Update @ May 7 : Microsoft has just "re-issued" KB940510 update via Windows Update. This targets those who have chosen to ignore and hide the earlier KB940510 update. Those who do not wish to install this update can choose to ignore and hide this update as well.