Aussie Windows counterfeit disks contain malware



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


  1. do they go into detail on what the malware was?
    because really it could just be something that disables product activation and is otherwise benign but because it is breaking the functionality of windows MS has classed it as malware.

    • Looktall, that’s exactly what i was thinking. KeyGen/Product Activation software is usually flagged by AV/Malware detection software as “Malware” for no apparently reason.

      It smells like scaremongering from MS.

    • Craptivation removal tools are almost always included on pirated disks, otherwise they wouldn’t be pirate copies would they?

      And since MS sees fit to flag these tools as Malware (and not viruses) then one can only assume that the press release from MS is really saying that very few of the pirate disks sold in markets are actually “proper” pirate material, and most were in fact either just copies of originals – requiring a license (and activation) to use – or copied/burned ISO that some market stall operator pulled off a torrent site without testing.

      All in all, just more FUD from the masters of spin.

    • Yes that’s exactly what I was thinking as well. The windows updates and firewall changes would also be necessary to block activation.

  2. and 100% of legit windows and office disks contained bloatware
    this dangerous software loaded caused the buyer to fork out more money, year after year for minimal changes and ever hidden useful features

    i gues the malware detected was the workaround for activation.


  3. Worth noting that Microsoft obviously have a financial motive in scaring people away from counterfeit software.
    Not saying it isnt true though.

  4. the windows 8 upgrade for $50 was fairly cheap
    as is buying a OEM copy with a new laptop where the device is ~$400 including the licence..

    obviously the retail versions are no where near those prices , but who would spend $300 on Windows / other OS when you can buy a new pc and get the software for close to free + having new hardware

  5. After looking at those shonkey fakes I feel better about getting done via a popular auction site,at least I got done via a well made fake.Took over 12 months before it was finally blocked from the update site but after sending MS the fake disks,details of purchase and the seller MS came good with a legit Ultimate Window 7 version….can’t knock that…

    • @Jmac
      Exactly the same thing happened to me, I gotta say that i was convinced that Microsoft had made a mistake because the fake was so well done :i.e. so authentic looking right down to the box it came in and all the pamphlets etc as well as the hologram on the disc, Had me fooled.

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