MANILA, Philippines—Software giant Microsoft has warned consumers of the dangers of purchasing counterfeit applications, citing a recent study showing that most programs sold through the “gray market” were pre-loaded with malicious software.
A study conducted by Microsoft’s Security Forensics team revealed that 63 percent of counterfeit software DVDs and computers with illegal copies of Windows and other software from Southeast Asia contained high-risk malware infections and viruses.
Microsoft revealed that the results were tested on 118 samples of unlicensed software purchased from resellers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The company said highly dangerous backdoors, hijackers, droppers, bots, crackers, password stealers and trojans were among the nearly 2,000 instances of malware and virus infections that were found.
“This study shows that using counterfeit software is a dangerous proposition. Pirated software is a breeding ground for cybercrime, and the cost of using it is potentially much higher than the price of buying genuine (software),” said Keshav Dhakad, Microsoft regional director of Intellectual Property for Asia-Pacific and Japan.
Seventy four percent of the DVDs and 48 percent of the computers that were sampled contained malware.
In the 77 percent of the computers examined, Windows Update had been disabled or re-routed to third-party services, exposing consumers to security threats like malicious cyber-attacks, virus infections and hacking.
“Counterfeiters have started replacing original software in computers with used, malware-infected drives containing nongenuine or unlicensed software,” Dhakad said.
Criminals are able to profit not only from the sale of the computer itself, but also from the sale of original hard drives, which are sold separately at a premium, he said.
Cybercriminals use malware for a range of invasive activities generating illegal profit like stealing consumers’ banking and credit card information, bogus offers and spamming of e-mails. These activities are conducted by or at the direction of organized, for-profit criminal enterprises.
Business Software Alliance in a study last year said the Philippines was No. 3 on the list of top 20 countries with the highest software piracy rates.