Don’t Be Fooled by Software Pirates

REDMOND, Wash. — April 1, 2010 — There is a sense of relief when a cruel joke is quickly followed by a wisecracking “April Fools!” But when consumers fall victim to software piracy, you can be sure a pirate won’t relieve their misery with humor.

Software piracy is an unfortunate outgrowth of the technical age, but what multiplies the risk is that many people view software piracy as a victimless crime. A recent survey conducted by the Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP)1 revealed that some consumers perceived the counterfeit business to be harmless and not unethical because no one gets hurt. Right?

Wrong. The reality is that all piracy, regardless of industry, can be dangerous, and software piracy is no exception. Here are five common misperceptions about software piracy — and how consumers can benefit from knowing what to look for when making their next software purchase to avoid being duped.

  • Myth: Software piracy isn’t a serious crime. What’s the big deal?

Reality: Actually, international police organizations have uncovered criminals setting up their own manufacturing plants and distributing software via sophisticated networks throughout the world — especially in countries with poorly enforced intellectual property laws. And what’s more, the profits from pirated and counterfeit software sales can often line the pockets of criminal syndicates. For example, in July 2007, Microsoft Corp. worked with the FBI and Chinese authorities to break up a Chinese-based syndicate believed to be the largest counterfeiting operation in the world, responsible for distributing an estimated $2 billion worth of counterfeit software to 36 countries across five continents. Eleven members of the syndicate arrested during these raids were sentenced in December 2008 to jail terms of up to six and half years.

  • Myth: Software piracy doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s not like anyone has ever been seriously injured, right?

Reality: Wrong. Consumers who download or buy hard copies of pirated software are at risk of receiving inferior products that leave them vulnerable to viruses, spyware and other malicious codes, as well as potential identity theft from transactions with unscrupulous businesses selling counterfeit software. For example, Media Surveillance, an anti-piracy solutions company based in Germany, recently downloaded several hundred pirated copies of Windows and found that 32 percent contained malicious code.

With that in mind, if you install illegally downloaded or counterfeit software there is a good chance that your computer will be infected with a virus that can steal or damage your information. In addition, the research found that today’s tech-savvy software pirates may also be creating large-scale botnets with computers using counterfeit software, and that these armies of compromised computers are being used to perform a host of illegal Internet activities such as spamming, without computer owners being aware this is happening.

  • Myth: Pirated software is cheaper than genuine software.

Reality: Actually, high-quality counterfeit software is often sold at market price, and in some cases can be more expensive than the genuine product.

Lower-quality counterfeit may be cheaper, but what might be cheaper could actually end up exposing your personal information, hurting your computer and disrupting your life — and with a large monetary burden. According to a 2006 study by the International Data Corp.2 (, the cost to recover from just one incident of malicious software on a single PC can run over a thousand dollars, and the cost to organizations from lost or compromised data can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per incident. Microsoft has also seen instances of credit card theft by those purporting to sell “discounted” software online that was later found to be counterfeit.

The best way to ensure you get the best value is to simply purchase the genuine item from a reputable source.

  • Myth: People who purchase counterfeit software are aware the product is pirated — they are just trying to get a good deal.

Reality: The truth is the majority of people who purchase counterfeit software are not aware they are victims of software piracy. Take a high-quality counterfeit, for instance, which can closely resemble the real deal. The best protection against counterfeit software is to know what to look for before you go shopping. The next time you are in the market for software, think about the following questions:

  • Are you buying from a reputable reseller?

  • Can your reseller confirm that their software would pass a Windows Genuine Advantage online validation test? 

  • Is a Certificate of Authenticity included?

  • Is a hologram CD, DVD or recovery media included?

  • Are the product packaging and documentation high-quality?

  • Is an End-User License Agreement included?

Then you can validate your Windows or Office software to ensure it is genuine. Go to, and it only takes a few easy clicks to check whether you purchased the real thing.

  • Myth: Software piracy is so rampant — what can you do? It’s not like consumers have the power to stop these software pirates.

Reality: Incorrect. At Microsoft, customers are vital to the company’s anti-piracy initiatives, as evidenced by the fact that thousands of enforcement actions have resulted from consumer tips and reports.

Over the past two years, Microsoft has seen a surge of voluntary reports — more than 150,000, which is more than double the previous records — from people who unknowingly purchased counterfeit software and wanted to report it. Microsoft encourages anyone who receives suspicious software to call the company’s anti-piracy hotline at (800) RU-LEGIT (785-3448). More information about genuine Microsoft products, licensing and labels is available at

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

1 BASCAP Study, Sept. 10, 2009

2 IDC White Paper sponsored by Microsoft, The Risks of Obtaining and Using Pirated Software, Doc # WP1006GRO, October 2006

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at

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