A new study commissioned by Microsoft Corp. and conducted by IDC has revealed that while some computer users may opt for pirated software to save money, the chances of infection by unexpected malware stands at one in three for consumers and three in ten for businesses. 

Following such numbers in terms of infection, the research shows that consumers will spend 1.5 billion hours and US$22 billion towards identifying, repairing and recovering from the impact of malware. Global enterprises will spend US$114 billion to deal with the impact of a malware-induced cyberattack.

The IDC study, titled “The Dangerous World of Counterfeit and Pirated Software”, was released as part of Microsoft’s “Play It Safe” campaign. It is the company’s global initiative to spread awareness to issues related to software piracy.

cover (Image credit: Getty Images)

Cheap software may prove costly (Image credit: Getty Images)

As part of the global study, they analysed 270 websites and peer-to-peer networks, 108 software downloads and 155 CDs or DVDs. The study team also interviewed 2,077 consumers and 258 IT managers or chief information officers in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Of the counterfeit software that does not come with the computer, 45 percent comes from the Internet, found the researchers. In a shocking revelation, the report highlighted that 78 percent of this software downloaded from websites or peer-to-peer networks included some type of spyware, while 36 percent contained Trojans and adware.

David Finn, Sssociate General Counsel, Microsoft Cybercrime Center, said, “The cybercrime reality is that counterfeiters are tampering with the software code and lacing it with malware. Some of this malware records a person’s every keystroke — allowing cybercriminals to steal a victim’s personal and financial information — or remotely switches on an infected computer’s microphone and video camera, giving cybercriminals eyes and ears in boardrooms and living rooms. The best way to secure yourself and your property from these malware threats when you buy a computer is to demand genuine software.”

“Our research is unequivocal: Inherent dangers lurk for consumers and businesses that take a chance on counterfeit software,” said John Gantz, Chief Researcher, IDC. “Some people choose counterfeit to save money, but this ‘ride-along’ malware ends up putting a financial and emotional strain on both the enterprise and casual computer users alike.”

Among other things, the study showed that 64 percent of the respondents knew who had used counterfeit software experienced security issues. Additionally, 45 percent of the time, counterfeit software slowed their PCs and the software had to be uninstalled. Forty-eight percent of respondents said that their greatest concern with using counterfeit software was data loss., while 29 percent were most concerned with identity theft.

“Embedding counterfeit software with dangerous malware is a new method for criminals to prey on computer users who are unaware of the potential danger,” the report added. 

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