Microsoft clamps down on software piracy

Windows 8 desktopA tip-off by Microsoft has led to six arrests and the seizure of goods worth more than £100,000 ($160,000) at three houses in the UK.

Microsoft alerted the new Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London police about suspected counterfeit software sales in Humberside. The police followed up on the tip-off as part of an ongoing investigation into the sale of fake product keys, Windows re-installation discs and key cards on online auction sites.

“Cybercrime can take many forms, ranging from manufacturing and selling counterfeit software, to stealing money, personal information and even identities from people’s computers using malware,” Abrahim Bakhtiar, an attorney at Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, said.

Police released one of the six people, while the rest are out on bail. An undisclosed number of counterfeit items were seized from a house in Barton-upon-Humber, and police also took computer equipment, documents and other items from two other properties.

Earlier this year, Juan Hardoy, who heads up Microsoft's anti-piracy and digital crime unit for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), noted that pirates are getting smarter, transitioning from physical counterfeit disks to a download business model and using more sophisticated spamming techniques to peddle their illicit copies of software.

He estimated around 45 per cent of pirated software is now web-based, with another 21 per cent bought via street markets and similar outlets.

In one case involving a counterfeiting operation based in Eastern Europe, a network of nearly 10,000 websites across 18 countries was found to have been processing around 38,000 orders for pirated software per month, netting $3.9m in illegal proceeds. Some the sites were also involved in distributing counterfeit medicines and child pornography.

Beyond the impact on Microsoft's own business, consumers who buy the pirated software pace themselves at risk of exposing their PCs to malware, he said, noting that 1 in 3 consumer PCs with counterfeit software installed will be infected in 2013.

Microsoft's strategy to deal with piracy is to work more closely with industrial partners and law enforcement and raising consumer awareness of the risks.

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