news Testing conducted by Microsoft Australia has revealed that many counterfeit Windows and Office software disks sold in local markets contain malware, in a revelation which the software giant hopes will stimulate more consumers to buy legit copies of its products.
“Microsoft Australia went to local markets in Melbourne to purchase counterfeit Windows and Office software from four different sellers (pictured), and tested what was on the DVDs,” the company wrote on its local government affairs blog last week. “The results were worrying.”
“Of six counterfeit Microsoft Office disks tested, they found that five were infected with malware.
Of the twelve counterfeit Windows disks tested, they found that six could not install and run, and so could not be tested. They were duds! Of the six counterfeit Windows disks that could run and be tested successfully: Two were infected with malware; 100% of the six copies had Windows Update disabled; [and] 100% of the six copies had the Windows Firewall rules changed.”
“In total of the twelve counterfeit software copies that could be installed successfully (six Office and six Windows) and tested: Seven copies (58%) were infected with malware; A total of 20 instances of six different types of malware code found.”
On its blog, Microsoft said that the risks posted to consumers if they had installed the counterfeit disks included “loss of sensitive data, substantial financial losses and costs, and a big waste of time trying to fix system problems”. The company noted it was now taking enforcement action against the four sellers of the disks , as it does with numerous counterfeit software sellers every year, to help combat counterfeit software and protect unsuspecting consumers.
Microsoft’s publicity around malware on counterfeit software disks is just the latest action it has taken in this area over the past several years. In November 2011, for example, Microsoft revealed that PC and laptop retailer The Laptop Factory Outlet, based in South Granville, NSW, would fork out $50,000 in damages for infringing the software giant’s copyright, after it used Windows Certificates of Authenticity (COA) from used PCs on new PCs loaded with counterfeit software.
In June that same year, the company revealed it had successfully prosecuted a Queensland man who was selling counterfeit copies of the company’s software packages, with a judge this week ruling the defendant would have to pay Microsoft $90,000 in civil damages and the man separately pleading guilty to several dozen counts of fraud. And in July 2010, Microsoft went so far as to join calls for Australian governments to create specialised cyber cops who would track down software pirates and bring them to justice.
“Everyone has a role to play in reducing piracy, including industry stakeholders and the government, to ensure consumers are protected. Piracy does not just represent losses to industry and lost revenue for Government, but increasingly it poses an issue of security for businesses and consumers,” said Vanessa Hutley, then-director of Intellectual Property at Microsoft Australia. Hutley is now the general manager at Music Rights Australia.
I have to say that I’m not really surprised to find these counterfeit disks containing malware. It’s probably a basic modus operandi for cybercrooks these days to get their rogue software onto counterfeit disks distributed online; many of these same install disks probably make their way into local markets through counterfeit programs.
I’m in two minds about Microsoft’s approach to the issue. On the one hand, obviously it’s great that Microsoft is highlighting this fact; there are indeed serious issues here relating to malware on counterfeited software. On the other hand … one also needs to take into account that less Australians would pirate Microsoft software if that software was priced more in line with the US, as the recent IT price hike inquiry being conducted by the Federal Parliament has highlighted. Microsoft probably does need to enforce its intellectual property rights in this manner; but it could also stand to take its customers’ views on pricing into account a little more as well.
Image credit: Microsoft