Infected pirated software will cost consumers and businesses billions this year – study

6 Mar 2013

Consumers will spend 1.5bn hours and US$22bn this year identifying, fixing and recovering from the impact of malware embedded in pirated software, while global enterprises will spend US$114bn in 2013 to handle the aftermath of a malware-induced cyberattack, a new study suggests.

The study commissioned by Microsoft Corp and conducted by IDC titled The Dangerous World of Counterfeit and Pirated Software reveals the chances of infection by unexpected malware are one in three for consumers and three in 10 for businesses.

The global study involved an analysis of 270 websites and peer-to-peer networks, 108 software downloads, and 155 CDs or DVDs. Researchers also interviewed 2,077 consumers and 258 IT managers or CIOs in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Thailand, the UK and the US.

The researchers found that of counterfeit software that does not come with the computer, 45pc comes from the internet, and 78pc of this software downloaded from websites or peer-to-peer networks included some type of spyware, while 36pc contained Trojans and adware.

“The cybercrime reality is that counterfeiters are tampering with the software code and lacing it with malware,” said David Finn, associate general counsel in the Microsoft Cybercrime Center.

“Some of this malware records a person’s every keystroke – allowing cyber-criminals to steal a victim’s personal and financial information – or remotely switches on an infected computer’s microphone and video camera, giving cyber-criminals 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.”

John Gantz, chief researcher at IDC, added that consumers and businesses are taking a real chance if they opt for counterfeit software.

“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,” Gantz said.

The study has been released as part of Microsoft’s Play It Safe campaign, a global initiative to raise awareness about software piracy.

Piracy image via Shutterstock

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic