A computer security study undertaken by Microsoft has 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, the 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.
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 Keshav Dhakad, 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 $100 billion annually, with an average per-victim impact of $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,” said Ricardo Blancaflor, director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), which is a member of the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT).
“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,” he said.
Blancaflor said 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 P1.5 million under Republic Act 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.