Microsoft is again warning consumers of the dangers of pirated software, after an Auckland online auction trader, OnlineSale Computers, was found to have been selling computers with unlicensed – or pirated – copies of Microsoft software.
OnlineSale Computers has paid Microsoft $15,000 in damages after admitting to infringing Microsoft's copyright.
Clayton Noble, legal counsel for Microsoft, says a lot of pirated software available for download or from high quality counterfeit operations is full of spyware, malware and viruses that can lead to identity theft, loss of data and system failure.
“At the very least they're likely to come with security features disabled,” he says.
“Some strains of counterfeit software products contain hidden key-logging software that allows criminals to steal passwords, bank account details and other personal information.”
He says consumers using non-genuine software risk losing sensitive data, spending time and money trying to fix infected computers, and could even suffer security breaches.
Noble's comments are backed by a global IDC survey which found 78% of downloadable counterfeit software installed tracking cookies or spyware; 36% installed trojan horses or dangerous adware and 28% had serious download system performance issues. The report also found that 20% of counterfeit CD/DVD programmes installed malware.
IDC defines counterfeit software as a subset of pirated software that is deliberately presented as genuine when it's not. Pirated software is software that is improperly licensed or not licensed at all.
Noble says anyone selling computers in New Zealand with pirated software probably gained the software from the Internet, leaving those buying the systems vulnerable. “And they probably won't even know they've purchased pirated software,” he adds.
OnlineSale Computers was busted after Microsoft investigators purchased a personal computer via TradeMe.
The computer was analysed and found to have been pre-installed with an unlicensed copy of Windows 7 Home Premium.
Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit continually searches internet auction sites, like Trade Me, for sellers offering pirated Microsoft software, and takes action to stop them.
Microsoft recommends buyers consider the following when purchasing computers:
•Are you buying from a known and reputable retailer/seller?
Buy from a retailer or seller you know and trust.
•Is the software you are looking to purchase much cheaper than from other retailers?
The general rule of thumb is proven time and time again – if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
•Are you able to contact the seller after you receive the software?
Be wary if the seller is reluctant or won’t provide a phone number, address and other pertinent contact details.
•Does the seller have satisfied and happy customers?
When buying online, always look for feedback from other customers. If there is negative feedback, steer clear.
•What is the seller’s return policy?
Make sure there is a way to return the product, and make sure that you feel confident that your seller will be willing and able to help you with after-sales service if there is a problem with your product.
•When buying online, are the photos in the advertisement of the actual software being sold?
Be wary of stock standard marketing photos that may not be of the actual software you are buying.
•Can you physically check the product?
If you can, check the product thoroughly before you purchase it. Use the How to Tell website to help you tell if it is legitimate software. Always be wary of sellers who are reluctant to let you view the product.
•Are you purchasing the correct license?
For example, if you use academic software and you are not a student, lecturer or teacher, you are in breach of the license.
•Does the software have a genuine Certificate of Authenticity?
A Certificate of Authenticity is a label that helps you identify genuine software. This is a visual identifier that helps determine whether or not the software you are buying is genuine. Check the Microsoft ‘How to Tell’ website to be able to tell the difference between genuine and fake Certificates of Authenticity.
Sellers of counterfeit Microsoft products can also be reported by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trade Me too, is on the look out for counterfeit product. Jon Duffy, Trade Me head of Trust and Safety, says the company works with Microsoft and a range of other rights holders across many industries to prevent counterfeit items being listed on the site.
“If consumers have concerns about a particular listing, they should report it through the CommunityWatch function at the bottom of every listing and our team can take it from there,” he adds.