Microsoft yesterday unveiled the results of a Southeast Asia computer security study which found that 63 percent of counterfeit software DVDs and computers with illegal copies of Windows and other software contained high-risk malware infections and viruses. The analysis was conducted by Microsoft's Security Forensics team on 118 samples purchased from resellers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. In total, this preliminary test sample surfaced nearly 2,000 instances of malware and virus infections-including highly dangerous backdoors, hijackers, droppers, bots, crackers, password stealers, and trojans.
The research further revealed that in 77% percent of the computers examined, Windows Update had been disabled or re-routed to third-party services. With Windows Update disabled, computer systems bypass genuine software checks and are also denied access to critical security updates, leaving them defenceless against malicious cyber-attacks, virus infections, and hacking.
Cybercriminals use malware for a range of invasive activities generating illegal profit-from stealing consumers' banking and credit card information, to spamming their e-mail and social media contacts with fraudulent requests for charitable donations or bogus offers (e.g., for counterfeit prescription drugs). Increasingly, these activities are conducted by or at the direction of organized, for-profit criminal enterprises. For businesses, the risks associated with using malware-infected, pirated software include low IT productivity, critical system failures and disruptions of service, and theft of confidential company data leading to severe financial loss and reputational harm.
"This study clearly shows that using counterfeit software is a dangerous proposition," said KeshavDhakad, Microsoft's Regional Director of Intellectual Property for Asia-Pacific and Japan. "Pirated software is a breeding ground for cybercrime, and the cost of using it is potentially much higher than the price of buying genuine in the first place. We want to help consumers understand the risks involved and the steps they can take to ensure a safe and secure PC experience."
According to the 2012 Norton Cybercrime Report, the global consumer cost of cybercrime is US$100 billion annually, with an average per-victim impact of US$197.
"This study shows that using pirated software does more harm than good to people. It puts people at risk because it does not guarantee the safety of sensitive data, activities and communications from cybercriminals who intend to cause harm. Another alarming possibility is that not all users are aware that they may be using illegal software. Some retailers would offer to install programs containing malware in brand new PCs of their customers," said Atty. Ricardo Blancaflor, Director General of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), which is an active member of the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT).
"We therefore urge the public to be wary of the software that is being installed in their computers and always seek having only original software. Software piracy is a violation of Republic Act 9239 or the Optical Media Act and is a crime punishable by up to nine years of imprisonment and a fine of up to R1.5 million under Republic Act 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines," Blancaflor stated.
Microsoft advises consumers to take the following steps to avoid the inadvertent purchase of counterfeit software:
•Always ask for genuine software.
•Buy from a trusted reseller and avoid deals that seem "too good to be true."
•Ensure all software purchases come in their original packaging.
•When buying a PC with Windows, look for the genuine label and Certificate of Authenticity that Microsoft requires be affixed to all PCs on which Windows is pre-installed.