WGA notches win for Microsoft in piracy bust

WGA notches win for Microsoft in piracy bust

Summary: 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.


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):


Topics: Microsoft, Piracy, Security, Windows

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  • Fake looks better

    oh wait. it's vista
  • I'm curious ...

    The picture you have posted is a "counterfeit" of a Windows Vista disc. My question is, so what? I can make a copy of a disc. The thing that really matters is the license key and the PC hardware signature that the Microsoft corporate database associates with the key. How was that counterfeited?

    As far as the $2 BILLION number is concerned, that is pure fiction. We won't see Microsoft's revenues take a sudden $2B jump next quarter because of this. If people paid good money for the counterfeit software, they are going to be doubly shy about sending good money after bad. And if they DIDN'T pay for the software in the first place, they probably don't have the money to pay for it now. Either way, the more probably outcome is that the user just won't have Office or Visio or whatever running on their computers anymore as opposed to Microsoft having the "missing" revenues.
    terry flores
    • Doubtful

      You may be right when it comes to home users, but business will not be without Windows.
      • There are a whole lot of business users in developing countries that ONLY

        need simple word processor, browser, and email for the vast majority of employees using a computer. So, Microsoft making it harder to pirate recent versions of Windows will just drive businesses to Ubuntu. I know a call center that converted everybody but a few executives (300+) to Ubuntu ahead of the BSA visiting. And, now they will never go back as Ubuntu requires a ton less administration compared to Windows.
    • $2 Billion explained

      Yes you won't see $2B all of a sudden show up in MS's profits, however had those items been sold that would have been $2B that Microsoft would never have seen.

      Not all people who purchase counterfeit software are trying to rip off Microsoft. Most don't know they are which is why the discs and packaging needs to be well done too.
      • The 50,000 copies don't add up to 2 billion

        Microsoft and the Hong Kong police raid confiscated 50,000 pirated copies of Vista. The Microsoft spokesman went on to say something to the effect that 2 billion dollars was saved due to these not being sold. Now, do the math, 2 billion divided by 50, 000 does not give a realistic retail value of Vista Ultimate, not even in their wildest hallucinations would it be possible. Meaning ? Microsoft either likes to exaggerate, continue to misinform or just blatantly lie ? The assumption or reason I leave to you to make. Microsoft is without doubt the biggest pirate out there and they have the profits to show for it or do you want to tell us all how wonderful Windows ME was ?
    • The software was sold as legitimate

      Microsoft will recoup from this as the buying customer didn't know it was illegal. Hard to say how much money was recovered from the couterfeiters and i'm not sure how the law works in that regard, but my best guess is Microsoft will be compensated from this money. Who knows how many sales the counterfeiters would have had the rest of this year and beyond. Microsoft's sales should rise or this story is complete fiction. It doesn't sound like it though, you think?
  • Like it or not (pirates don't) it does work.

    And all the ranting in the world is not going to change it.
    • It is still very easy to pirate, it is just hard to make genuine disks and

      packaging. This will not affect the millions buying pirated Windows in China, that KNOW it is pirated and are paying full price. MS just wants to cut off the supply of pirated disks to businesses and others that are paying full price.

      They want to make sure that nobody in China choses Linux because they can't pay for Windows.
      • ID10T alert

        DB seems to "know" exactly what Microsoft wants, doesn't want, and is afraid of. Too bad he had no clue.

        Oh, and the fact that people would rather run pirated Microsoft products rather than the freely available open source applications apparently has ticked him off to no end.

        My day is complete.
        Confused by religion
        • You tagged him right!

          Add to that the number of high positioned, talented people leaving Google (his all time favorite company) of late, not to mention them missing revenue expectations and drop in stock price, and I would have to say that he may be headed towards some high blood pressure related health problems in the very near future.
          John Zern
          • I think the ones with high blood pressure are Billy and Stevie.

            They have even resorted to threatening Linux, and operating system that they have said is junk anyway. What do they have to worry about.

            But, back to the piracy, MS realizes that Windows MUST be easy to pirate, or a huge percentage in developing countries will switch to Linux. That has got to tick them off.
          • Mixed up

            I think you mixed up "high blood pressure" with "record profits".

            You're acting like MS is in some sort of mortal danger from Linux. They're in exactly as much danger now as when it was claimed by you and your ilk that 1999 would see MS bankrupt, Win98 the last widespread MS OS, due to the coming Linux wave.

            MS is FAR further away from a fall than they were a decade ago, mostly thanks to copetition more worried about /. and other winge forums instead of putting out product. (Like a spreadsheet app I'd use instead of Excel, for example.)

            Google? I'm sure THEY tick off Bill and Steve, but your statement about piracy is silly. (read: exactly what folks come to this troll den for!)

            Good times...
          • No, flat stock price and high blood pressure. They are even messing around

            with Linux, with vague threats for something they claim is junk.

            And, on piracy, it would be rather easy for MS to solve the problem, but, they understand that it would also be their undoing.
        • I think Billy and Stevie are the ones that are ticked that over 95% of the

          users in developing countries would NOT use Windows if they had to pay even $5 for it. At that point they would use Linux.

          And, what has to tick Billy and Stevie off even more is that if not for the network effect and the ecosystem of Windows only shops, people in developing countries would not use Windows at all, no matter what the price.
          • And once again, you should have listened to the wisdom

            ...quoted here many times.

            "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt."

            Yeah, 95% - what are you smokin' DB? Does that include the rather large number of people who bought a low cost linux machine and stripped off that OS to run Windows?

            I thought not - those blinders are cutting off the blood supply to your brain.
            Confused by religion
          • You will find that in developing countries, that wages are low enough, that

            almost nobody would use MS Office and MS Windows if they had to pay for it. Right now, prices are falling rapidly for hardware, and there will be literally billions more that can afford computers in a short time. They only way those new buyers will use Windows and Office is if they can pirate them.

            And, the people that bought a low cost Linux machine and replaced it with Windows / Office, installed PIRATED versions. If you were going to pay for legal copies of Windows / Office, it is a lot cheaper to buy them pre-installed.
          • Pirates were SOLD!!

            Warning! Warning! Will Robinson! Faulty Logic hitting the fan.

            People paid for the pirate copies! In other words, if they knew about them being pirated, they were still wanting to risk it and PAY for them than use free software. If they didn't, they still would rather have MS software than the free stuff.

            Your 'MS down the drain in the devloping world' argument goes down the drain instead.

            Give it a rest. There are plenty of things to pull MS up on, but this claptrap you keep spreading is BS and just highlights what a JERK you are.

            We all need to demand fully-functional, ergonomic, bug-free (as is reasonably possible) software from all sources (including the open-source), not focus on one supplier as the defaulter of choice.

            If you want to provide a true alternative to MS software, do something positive to bring about real alternatives for the great majority. None of these alternatives are here now because they FAIL to take account of the reality that current MS users need a quantum leap in productivity to change. A 35 year-old OS and some MS Office clones are not a quantum leap.

            Start by coming up with some ideas about what would be a quantum leap in productivity.

            As a matter of interest, have you ever used the MS Office apps in any manner other than the 1-2% that most consumers (as opposed to supporting business processes) use them? Each one of them is a fully-functional programming environment that can harness the inbuilt functionality of the host app in programming mash-ups with parts of other apps. There is ample opportunity to design and promote an alternative paradigm that fulfills the same basic purpose but in a much more friendly (than the mainstream programming paradigm) format. Get to it and make your mark on the world.

            Just as an aside. If the first script virus for Word, Concept, has been written with a malicious intent and full understanding of what it could do, a majority of the worlds businesses could have been made to go under by destroying a large part of the corporate data of the Western world. It would have only taken trojan virus with a couple of days latency and the rest would have been a financial world teetering on collapse. Now we are more prepared, but it shows what capability these apps still have to do serious programming tasks if designed properly. the problem is that the basic programming pardigm has not changed in decades. Borland Open-Vision promised a change, but it lacked the GUI and DB features that are in plentiful supply now but still with words linkiung then togather.
          • The problem is, you can not get blood out of a turnip.

            Microsoft understands this very well, and will make sure that those that do NOT have the money, will be able to pirate. They do not want the next billion computer users on Linux. This a very delicate dance for Microsoft. How to keep the "haves" paying and let the "have nots" pirate?

            Fun to watch them squirm.
    • I ask the expert:

      Explain to me how they couldn't have done this without WGA. I don't see it. Police have caught counterfeiters for decades before Windows even existed, much less Windows Genuine Annoyance. Would those same time-tested techniques somehow not have worked in this case?

      Saying that WGA played a large part in this bust is like saying the cup holder in my car played a large part in my drive to work today. Just because it was there doesn't make it a sine qua non.

      Please excuse me for being a bit skeptical about a Microsoft press release. I know what a sacred fount of knowledge they are for you, Axonless.