A preliminary Microsoft security study shows that 63 percent of pirated software peddled in Southeast Asia--either through DVDs or preinstalled on computers--are laced with high-risk malware.
In a statement Thursday, Redmond said its security forensics team had worked on 118 samples of pirated software purchased from resellers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. They found about 2,000 instances of malware and virus infections in these samples which include "highly dangerous backdoors, hijackers, droppers, bots, crackers, password stealers, and Trojans", it noted.
The study also found that among computers with bootleg copies of Windows operating systems (OSes), 77 percent of the Windows Update functionality has been disabled or re-routed to third-party services. The software giant said these PCs with disabled Windows Update bypass genuine software checks and are denied critical security patches which causes them to be defenseless against malicious cyberattacks.
Jeff Bullwinkel, director of legal and corporate affairs for Asia-Pacific and Japan at Microsoft, said: "Pirated software is a breeding ground for cybercrime, and the cost of using it is potentially much higher than the price of buying genuine in the first place. We want to help consumers understand the risks involved and the steps they can take to ensure a safe and secure PC experience."
Zahri Yunos, acting CEO of CyberSecurity Malaysia, added in the statement that having a computer with counterfeit software is like "moving into a high-crime neighborhood and leaving [the] doors open [which is] incredibly risky".
"People with counterfeit software have no guarantee their sensitive data, activities and communications will be safe from cybercriminals that intend to do harm. As the results of this study show, the danger of counterfeit software is real and consumers should insist on genuine software when purchasing a new PC," said Zahri.
Microsoft added it is currently expanding its research in Southeast Asia to increase the sample size of PCs and DVDs containing pirated software. It expects to publish the full study results and analysis during the first quarter of 2013.
A separate May 2012 report by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) said about 63 percent of computer users in Asia-Pacific admitted to piracy, above the global average of 57 percent. Software piracy in 2011 resulted in a loss of nearly US$21 billion for software companies, it noted.