Name brand PCs found with pirated software, malware

Posted at 02/26/13 3:01 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos should be careful when buying name brand personal computers, since some of them may have been installed with pirated and counterfeit software. 

A study conducted by Microsoft showed that name brand PCs in Southeast Asia have been found with not just pirated software, but even worse, embedded with malware that can increase users' risk for data corruption and theft. 

Microsoft's study on malware threats examined PCs with pirated software and counterfeit software DVDs from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Conducted in December 2012, the study examined a total of 282 computers and DVDs and found an average malware infection rate of 69%. This is 6 points higher than the preliminary study.

Based on the study, the Philippines had 42% infection rate of pirated software, or two out of every five computers and DVDs tested were infected with malware. 

In Vietnam, malware was discovered on 66% of pirated DVDs and 92% of hard drives tested.

"While the Philippines has the lowest rate of malicious software: at 42%, it doesn’t mean that we should put our guards down. Instead, we should continue to be vigilant against pirated software as it is not only discouraging local innovation but as the studies have shown, it is detrimental to office operations," said Atty. Ricardo Blancaflor, director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL).

Branded PCs with fake software

Microsoft's Security Forensics team also found that pirated copies of Windows embedded with malware were found in several PC brands, such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. 

However, Microsoft believes the counterfeit software or malware were not installed by the PC manufacturers. The computers were likely shipped with non-Windows OS, but were replaced with counterfeit software by retailers or other individuals involved in illegal activities. 

"Many people assume that buying a name-brand PC is all that’s required to guarantee a good and safe computing experience. They don’t think twice about the software sold with the computer, and whether or not it’s pirated,” said Keshav Dhakad, Microsoft’s director of Intellectual Property for Asia Pacific and Japan.  

"But consumers need to beware: while they might think there are great deals to be had by looking the other way, the hidden cost of pirated software is significant, and contrary to popular belief, can’t be remedied by simply running anti-virus software. If a consumer can’t verify that the computer they purchased was shipped with a pre-installed, genuine copy of Windows, their risk of exposure to viruses and spyware—and the potential for data corruption, theft, and financial loss—increases exponentially.”

In its tests in Southeast Asia, Microsoft found 5,601 instances and 1,131 unique strains of malware and virus infections, including the highly dangerous "Zeus" trojan.

Zeus is a password-stealing trojan known to use “keylogging” to monitor people’s online activity. Keyloggers record a user's every keystroke in order to steal personal information, including account usernames and passwords. This can be used by criminals to steal victims' identifies, withdraw money from their bank accounts, make online purchases using victim’s personal information and access other private accounts. 

'Don't buy pirated software'

Microsoft gives consumers advice on how to prevent the inadvertent purchase of pirated software:

  • When purchasing a new PC, always ask for a genuine, pre-installed operating system;
  • Buy from a trusted reseller and avoid deals that seem “too good to be true”;
  • Ensure all software purchases come in their original packaging;
  • When buying a PC with Windows, look for the genuine label and Certificate of Authenticity that Microsoft requires be affixed to all PCs on which Windows is pre-installed. As a further check after purchase, log on to www.howtotell.com to confirm the label is authentic.

Customers who suspect the software they're using is counterfeit are encouraged to file a report at  www.microsoft.com/piracy.