Say the word “counterfeits” and most people think of cheap knock-offs offered at flea markets or low-quality fake designer goods sold out of someone’s car trunk. These images are at odds with the real story behind software piracy. That story involves highly organized criminals operating sophisticated manufacturing plants to create near-exact replicas of genuine software. See how global collaboration between the FBI, Chinese authorities and Microsoft led to the demise of the world's largest known counterfeiting syndicate.
These counterfeits are intended to deceive consumers into thinking they are buying the genuine article and are often sold at prices that are nearly the same as genuine software. However, while the counterfeit discs and packaging appear the same as legitimate software, the counterfeit software code itself can contain malware or viruses, or be stripped of critical security features that protect customers’ information and technology systems. This faulty code leaves consumers vulnerable to system failures and, even worse, to cybercriminals who roam the Internet for potential victims.
Combatting these counterfeits and the criminals behind them is the role of Microsoft’s David Finn and his team of piracy experts. They use cutting-edge intelligence and forensic techniques to track down global criminal counterfeiting syndicates and support law enforcement in more than 70 countries throughout the world. What’s more, says Finn, who heads the company’s anti-piracy investigations through its worldwide Legal and Corporate Affairs department: “We are increasingly collaborating with our own customers, who are providing critical information to help us identify software pirates, and addressing their concerns about the risks of using counterfeit software.”
How to Tell if Your Software Is GenuineHow do you know if the software you buy is genuine? Consider the following:
•Are you buying from a reputable reseller?
•Can your reseller confirm that its software would pass a Windows Genuine Advantage online validation test?
•Is the price too good to be true?
•Is a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) included?
•Is a hologram CD, DVD, or recovery media included?
•Are the product packaging and documentation high quality?
•Is an End User License Agreement (EULA) included?
If you’ve already purchased Microsoft software, you can find out for sure by visiting http://www.howtotell.com
This week the story gains international attention through a new counterfeiting exhibition at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
(French Science and Industry Museum) in Paris. Microsoft will be part of this broader exhibit that showcases how different industries are affected by piracy, as well as the risks that consumers face. The company will represent the software industry with a video documentary about how partnering with law enforcement across several continents led to prosecution of a Chinese criminal syndicate in what became the largest counterfeit case in history. In addition, a number of genuine and counterfeit Microsoft products will be displayed to help consumers distinguish genuine software from counterfeit. Also on display will be the company’s latest technology used to identify and track down software pirates.
Says Blandine Savrda, commissioner at the Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie: “This exhibition represents one of the largest combined efforts of government and industry coming together to speak out on the threats consumers face because of counterfeiting. If not for the collaboration of governments and private industry, the illegal trade of pirated products would continue to increase at an even higher rate.”
The software piracy world today, says Finn, is a vast web of large and small criminal enterprises, seeking to profit in a variety of ways. Consumers are increasingly the victims of pirated software riddled with malware, viruses and malicious code produced by counterfeiters who are happy to take their money without regard to the quality and integrity of the product they are passing off as the real thing.