One in Two Consumers Concerned About Data Loss or ID Theft From Counterfeit Software

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 16, 2010 — Microsoft Corp. today released the results of a broad consumer survey it commissioned, which asked more than 38,000 men and women in 20 countries around the world about their perceptions of counterfeit software. The results provide some of the clearest evidence yet that people worldwide see real danger in using it: By a three-to-one margin, consumers agreed that it is not as safe to use as genuine software. Data loss and ID theft are among their top concerns. There was also resounding support for government and industry to take action against counterfeiters.

“Consumers everywhere are coming to us with complaints about counterfeit software,” said David Finn, associate general counsel for worldwide anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting at Microsoft. “They’re asking what they can do to protect themselves. They want facts. And they want industry and government to stand up and take action. Our commitment is to do everything we can to help them.”

According to the data released today, 80 percent of consumers polled worldwide have a range of concerns about the risks of using counterfeit software, and 70 percent said they believe genuine software is more secure, more stable and is easier to keep up-to-date.

But the presence of high-quality fakes in the market today makes distinguishing counterfeit from genuine a continuing challenge for consumers. The majority of those polled — 73 percent — say they would choose genuine software given the choice, and more than two-thirds believe that consumers in general have to be on the lookout or they could mistakenly buy counterfeit software.

The data confirms what has become a recurring theme in complaints submitted through Microsoft’s How to Tell website. More than 300,000 consumers have come forward through the site since 2005, offering details about fake software that left their computers infected with viruses and malware, or that simply didn’t work as advertised. Examples of consumer submissions to the site include the following:

  • “The product came from another country and once installed, it caused my computer to crash, which will now only run in Safe Mode. When Safe Mode appeared, the Validation notification said it no longer had a VLK number. It looks like the real thing, but does not work!” — J.J., St. Cloud, Wisconsin

  • “When beginning to load, a message appears saying, ‘Trojan virus continued’ and at the end, a message appeared saying, ‘copy US invalid.’” — D.E., Murrieta, Calif.

  • “It appears real, the hologram on the CD and the Microsoft tag look identical to the original ones purchased with the laptop we have. Got a trojan virus had to reload OS and couldn’t find our originals so ordered this copy. Microsoft website says it is counterfeit.” — C.S., Beaumont, Texas

David Devendorf from Liverpool, N.Y., also found that he was out of luck after buying software that looked just like the real thing.

“The disc I ordered online arrived shrink-wrapped and looked good, but then it wouldn’t validate,” Devendorf said. “I checked out the How to Tell website, and even though it was hard to tell the difference between my counterfeit software and the real thing, I spotted a few signs that confirmed I was tricked. If I had checked that site before I bought the software, I would have saved a lot of time and money.”

Call to Action for Government and Industry

Although consumers are increasingly doing their part by reporting counterfeit software, they are also looking to government and industry to curb the problem. Sixty-five percent of respondents called on government to act, and 72 percent agreed that the software industry itself should be doing more. Seventy-five percent agree that consumers need ways to protect themselves from inadvertently buying counterfeit software.

“The results of this survey show that there is still a significant need for the software industry and government to educate consumers about counterfeit software,” said Jodie Kelley, general counsel and vice president of Anti-Piracy, Business Software Alliance. “Consumers don’t want counterfeit software. They know it’s harmful, and in fact it’s hurting people everywhere. But they need the tools and the knowledge to keep themselves safe from those risks.”

Microsoft’s Efforts to Stop Software Counterfeiting

Focusing on what it calls the “three Es” — Education, Engineering and Enforcement — Microsoft makes a significant investment each year into educational resources to help consumers protect themselves, new technologies that make counterfeiting software more difficult, and supporting governments as they work to enforce their laws against software counterfeiters and bring them to justice.

By releasing the new data in conjunction with its annual Consumer Action Day, Microsoft is working to highlight these worldwide efforts. As part of this year’s Consumer Action Day, the company is also calling attention to a host of educational resources that can help consumers stay safe with genuine software, which can be found online at

Microsoft also recommends that consumers check to see whether their software passes the Windows validation test whenever they purchase software online, in stores or pre-loaded onto computers.

How Customers Can Report Piracy

Tips from customers and partners are vital in helping Microsoft address piracy. 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

About Consumer Action Day

Each year, Microsoft holds a Consumer Action Day to call attention to the problem of software counterfeiting around the globe. This year’s events are being held Nov. 17 across Microsoft subsidiaries to highlight new technologies to stop counterfeiting, educational activities and resources to help consumers protect themselves, and Microsoft’s support of governments as they seek to enforce the laws in their countries. More information on Consumer Action Day is available at

About the New Consumer Survey on Software Counterfeiting

Early this fall, Microsoft commissioned market research firm TNS to conduct a worldwide survey in 20 countries to better gauge consumer perception about counterfeit software. More than 38,000 men and women around the world participated. A summary of the survey 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.

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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