With its operating system Windows 7 and other popular software products being increasingly targeted by cyber pirates, Microsoft has launched an initiative to curb the menace, primarily because customers are asking it to intervene.
“We are seeing an upsurge in consumers coming back to us and saying I have been a victim of piracy. So long as data pointing to the source of piracy is there, we will take some measure,” said Vipul Pant, director of Microsoft's “genuine software initiative”.
“Since January, we have received over 2,000 complaints in India, and more than 150,000 from consumers across the world,” Pant told IANS.
According to a study by Business Software Alliance, a US-based non-profit trade association of software firms in over 80 countries, and market tracker IDC, piracy levels in India were pegged at 68 percent in 2008, while losses stood at $2.7 billion.
A 10-point reduction in personal computer (PC) software piracy would create an additional 44,000 jobs in India, $200 million in tax revenues, and $3.1 billion in economic growth.
However, with internet connectivity increasing, consumers are beginning to realise the potential risks of running a PC which runs pirated software like an operating system.
“India has 30 million installed PCs, with one-third being used in homes, and are connected to the internet, at least for some time of the day or week or month. If you add small offices, more than 10 million PCs are connected to the Net,” said Pant.
“The internet, however, also brings in malware and is becoming a syndicated criminalised industry. They figured out that the easiest way to get into somebody's PC is to place malware in the pirated copies,” he added.
Malware or malicious software is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner's consent and can be used to steal the user's financial or personal information.
“KPMG in a whitepaper figured out that 59 percent of crack tools and keygens they surveyed had embedded malware,” said Pant.
Microsoft said it has started a campaign to inform customers of the potential threats from buying pirated software in 70 countries.
The company has also initiated civil legal actions on errant re-sellers and involved the police in conducting surprise checks on known piracy vending locations like Lamington Road in Mumbai, Lalbagh in Lucknow and Krishna Nagar in New Delhi.
However, Prasanto Roy, chief editor of trade magazine CyberMedia, said Microsoft has not been very successful in its fight against piracy in the past compared to smaller software companies.
“Microsoft's customer base is huge compared to others. Most systems have a Microsoft product – usually Windows. It will have to tread cautiously while taking action against the big sharks because some of them are likely to be members of their channels of distribution,” Roy told IANS.
“Any action needs to be gentle and persuasive as the ramifications can hit its business prospects,” said Roy.