Microsoft's anti-piracy effort may be annoying to some Windows users, but it has notched a big win catching the bad guys.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that the FBI and Chinese Public Security Bureau busted a syndicate selling and distributing more than $2 billion in counterfeit Microsoft software. The WGA's role in the bust highlights the returns that are possible with the program.
Microsoft noted that the investigation was "the largest of its kind" and benefited from customer and partner cooperation.
In a statement Microsoft said:
Law enforcement authorities and forensic specialists identified numerous replication plant lines that were involved in the CD production and were the source of counterfeit Microsoft products that had been supplied and sold to business customers and consumers around the world. The counterfeit software, found in 27 countries and on five continents, contained fake versions of 13 of Microsoft’s most popular products — including Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office release, Microsoft Office 2003, Windows XP and Windows Server. The counterfeits were produced in at least eight languages: Croatian, Dutch, English, German, Italian, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Spanish.
But what's really notable here is that the Windows Genuine Advantage program (WGA) delivered the way it was supposed to despite a lot of consternation.
Tens of thousands of customers used Microsoft’s anti-piracy technology in Windows Genuine Advantage to identify the software they were using as fake. More than 1,000 of these customers then submitted physical copies of counterfeit Windows XP for analysis, which Microsoft was then able to forensically link to the counterfeit syndicate. In addition, more than 100 Microsoft resellers played a key part in helping to trace the counterfeit software and provided physical evidence critical to building the case, such as e-mail messages, invoices and payment slips.
Without WGA Microsoft wouldn't have been able to determine the applications were fakes.
Nick White on the Vista Team Blog talked up the WGA's role in the bust. Indeed, WGA will be critical since the fakes are looking more legit by the day.
See this image courtesy of White (the one on the right is fake):