Microsoft today announced a surge of voluntary reports ? more than 150,000 in the past two years ? from people who unknowingly purchased counterfeit software that was often riddled with viruses or malware.
In addition, Microsoft today announced a surge of its own with Consumer Action Day, a simultaneous launch of education initiatives and enforcement actions in more than 70 countries to help protect consumers and increase awareness of the risks of counterfeit software.
The software industry has long studied the black market for pirated software and its effects on consumers. One seminal study by IDC in 2006 showed that one in four Web sites offering counterfeit software attempted to install unwanted or malicious code upon downloading. This rate is rising, as found by Media Surveillance, an anti-piracy solutions company based in Germany, when it recently downloaded several hundred pirated copies of Windows and hacks and found that 32 percent contained malicious code. The 2006 IDC white paper also described a review of counterfeit Microsoft software purchased at resellers in 17 countries: more than 50 percent of the discs contained phony code, had malware or could not even be installed. Just two months ago, the BSA October 2009 Internet Piracy Study showed countries with high piracy rates often have high malware infection rates.
As part of Consumer Action Day, more than 70 countries are launching educational initiatives and enforcement actions to help protect consumers from counterfeit software. Highlights include an intellectual property rights education program in schools across China, an originals club for software resellers in Germany, a risk-of-counterfeit training course for the consumer protection authority in Mexico, a children?s online safety program in Greece, and a study of piracy?s impact on small and midsize businesses in Argentina. A map detailing these efforts around the world today can be found at http://www.howtotell.com.
The effects of malware can range from annoying advertisements to a severe breach of information security. Moreover, most people simply find themselves without the software they thought they were paying for. Unable to get a refund from the dealer, some consumers find they need to purchase the product again.
To address the increasing sophistication of software counterfeiters, Microsoft has enhanced its anti-piracy work on all three fronts: education, engineering and enforcement.
On the engineering front, Microsoft has improved the product activation and validation process with Windows 7. Windows Activation Technologies in Windows 7 are built off the Software Protection Platform introduced with Windows Vista, which enables Windows to protect itself by detecting when attempts have been made to circumvent or tamper with built-in product activation technology, and helps customers more easily activate the product and resolve potential issues. Windows 7 includes the latest generation of this technology, including changes that allow users to see more informative notification messages and to more easily complete the steps in the process.
When it comes to enforcement, Microsoft has invested in nine Product Identification (PID) Analysis Labs around the world. Forensic experts in these labs use sophisticated tools, such as digital disc fingerprinting and optical manufacturing tracking, to examine counterfeit software and provide critical information to local law enforcement agencies to use in their pursuit of criminal software counterfeiting syndicates. The results are tangible and impactful: Microsoft?s work in its PID Analysis Labs has led to more than 1,000 customs border patrol seizures of counterfeit software in just over two years.