Microsoft advises consumers to be wary of unintentional purchase of counterfeit software

 |   Singapore News Center

SINGAPORE, November 18, 2014 – Microsoft today called on consumers and small businesses to be wary of the unintentional purchase and use of counterfeit software. This advisory was issued following a raid of a computer vendor located at Kembangan Plaza yesterday by the Intellectual Property Rights Branch (IPRB) of the Singapore Police Force. It is understood that the company operating at the shop had advertised the sale of unauthorised “Microsoft license keys” and claimed they were genuine. Customers could also purchase branded computers and laptops bundled with counterfeit software at highly discounted prices via an online store. These computers were sold with fake Certificates of Authenticity that could mislead customers into believing the software installed were genuine.

During the raid, the authorities also seized 43 units of laptops installed with suspected counterfeit copies of Windows 7 Pro and Office Enterprise 2007 and affixed with fake Certificates of Authenticity. The total commercial value of the seized goods is estimated at S$80,000. The Lenovo, Dell and HP laptops seized are believed to be originally preinstalled with only DOS operating systems.

The raid by the IPRB serves as a timely reminder for consumers and small businesses to continue to remain vigilant against pirated software which often leads to increased security risks and threats from malware and viruses, not to mention the economic impact of software piracy to consumers and businesses in Singapore. Honest computer vendors are also put to a disadvantage as they are unable to compete with dealers offering counterfeit software that are often lower in cost. In this case, Microsoft was alerted by a concerned computer vendor when their customer demanded a refund of a genuine copy of software he bought because he claimed the same software was sold by the raided vendor at a cheaper price.

Hence, it is important for consumers and retailers to ensure they obtain their software products only from trusted vendors and local authorised sources. To guard against the unintentional purchase and use of counterfeit software and to find out how to verify the origin of Microsoft products, consumers can visit this Microsoft Web site.

Roland Chan, Senior Director, Compliance Programmes – Asia-Pacific, BSA | The Software Alliance (BSA) said, ”Most people do not know what is installed on their systems, and that needs to change. While Singapore has one of the lowest rates of unlicensed software use in the Asia-Pacific region, it is still important for both consumers and businesses to be vigilant in view of the security and malware risk counterfeit software potentially brings. According to our BSA Global Software Survey, the risk of security threats from malware is the chief reason why computer users around the world avoid the use of unlicensed software. Among the risks associated with this, 64 percent of users cited unauthorised access by hackers as a top concern and 59 percent cited the loss of data. Consumers and business should actively take steps to prevent the potential risks at hand and to protect themselves from unwanted exposure to potential loss of privacy and data.”

Singapore has one of the most stringent copyright laws where offenders, if found guilty in the court of law for the manufacture for sale, sale of infringing copies and possession or importation of infringing copies, are liable to a fine not exceeding S$10,000 for each infringing copy, up to a total of S$100,000 per charge, or imprisonment for up to five years. Offenders, may also be liable to both a fine and imprisonment if found guilty.

The raid yesterday was one of several that has been conducted by the authorities in recent months. In September this year, a 20 year old man pleaded guilty and was fined S$20,000 for selling unauthorised software product or license keys in several local online websites, the maximum fine under the Copyright Act for a first time offender.

Jonathan Selvasegaram, Corporate Attorney, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) said, “Software piracy is a major concern for everyone, because of the damage it could cause for unsuspecting users. Such software could expose computers to spyware, malware and viruses that can lead to identity theft, loss of personal data, and unexpected system failures. The risk is very real as this has dangerous repercussions, especially for businesses where operational disruptions caused by malware and viruses could potentially lead to heavy financial losses for them. In fact, a quick anti-malware scan on a new branded laptop purchased earlier from the raided vendor revealed that it contained adware. While good adware can enable you to enjoy apps for free, bad adware can turn your system into a zombie computer that is part of a botnet and is sending out spam, phishing emails, and even attacking other computers. The DCU team hopes to be able to examine the computers seized by the Police in greater detail once the case is over.

Mr Selvasegaram made these remarks in reference to a joint study conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) released in March this year which found that enterprises in Asia Pacific (APAC) are expected to spend nearly US$230 billion to deal with issues caused by malware deliberately loaded onto pirated software. Breaking this down further, the majority of the cost (US$170 billion) will go into dealing with data breaches, while the remainder will be utilised to deal with security issues. The study, titled “The Link Between Pirated Software and Cybersecurity Breaches” also revealed that 65 percent of APAC consumers survey said their greatest fear from infected software is the loss of data, files or personal information, followed by unauthorised internet transactions (48 percent) and potential identity theft (47 percent).

According to the study, government officials also expressed concern about the potential impact of cybersecurity threats to their nations. The survey outlined that APAC governments are most worried about the unauthorised access to confidential government information (57 percent), the impact of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure (56 percent), and the loss of business trade secrets or competitive information (55 percent). It is estimated that governments worldwide could lose more than US$50 billion to deal with the costs associated with malware on pirated software.


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