The current pandemics, which turned billion people into distance workers overnight, reminded many companies of computer security importance to ensure business continuity and employee productivity. Secure remote access to business resources, applications, and data has risen among many organizations’ main challenges. A potential source of security risks includes the use of non-genuine or counterfeit software, which often occurs even without the company’s knowledge.
Although many organizations are well aware of the technical, legal, and financial implications of using non-genuine software, the researchers note that they often underestimate the risks of opening the doors widely for employees by installing unlicensed programs and unverified online sources. The danger is even greater when companies are using more and more different computer devices, including devices that employees bring in from home.
Another challenge comes from an otherwise positive development – the growth of easy and comfortable online shopping of software. But that also means it can sometimes be difficult to check what we are buying. Caution should be exercised if counterfeit, stolen software, or unlicensed software may be hiding in the bag of a cheap offer.
One in three pirated copies causes infection
The sale of non-genuine software is closely linked to criminal groups that can sour PCs use with viruses and Trojans – and IT security in the company.
The research company IDC* found* that one in three pirated copies of PC software cause infections with harmful software, such as unwanted advertising programs, programs for password and credential theft, programs that record keyboard use, or even allow criminals to take control of our computers.
The smaller the organization, the greater the risk of economic damage from the use of infected pirated software.
Research, such as IDC already mentioned, also shows that IT managers underestimate the extent of software installation on work computers without the company’s knowledge.
17% of Europe’s employees add software solutions to work computers on their own initiative and without supervision. A large proportion of these installations are without proper licenses and carried out without a review for harmful programs. This increases the number of infected software in the organization by as much as 19 %. Infections caused by unauthorized software installation are particularly threatening to small and medium-sized organizations as they pay less attention to security updates.
Consequences of infected non-genuine software – main concerns in European companies:
Check if you have the right licenses
Microsoft provides licensing solutions to companies and organizations to help them make sure that they are using a genuine software. For this purpose, they may contact a Microsoft Volume Licensing Representative or an authorized Microsoft vendor.
More tips on identifying if your Microsoft software and hardware is genuine is also available on the How to Tell website.
Special warning: purchase license keys
With the exception of Product Key Cards (PKC’s) distributed with COA’s, Microsoft does not distribute products keys as standalone products. If you see a listing on an auction site, online classified ad, or other online page advertising product keys for sale, it’s a good indication that the keys are likely stolen or counterfeit. If you were to purchase and use a stolen or counterfeit product key to activate Windows installed on your PC, the key may not work for activation, may already be in use on another PC, or it might be blocked from use later by Microsoft when the key is reported stolen.
Five tips for safer online purchases of software
Of course, this does not mean that buying software online is a wrong decision, but a few precautionary advice should be followed:
- Select an authorized online seller you trust or buy directly from online stores such as Microsoft Store.
- Check online vendors at pages such as Contact Us or About Us. If you do not find contact information there, this often means that software counterfeiters are hiding their location and do not want to reveal their company’s identity.
- Avoid auctioning sites.
- Use a safe payment method. Do not pay in cash or by immediate transfer of money.
- Save order pages, emails, receipts, and invoices that relate to the purchase of the software. You may need saved documents to return the software if you suspect that it is counterfeited.
* Causes and Costs of Security Threats from Pirated Software in Europe 2017, IDC