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Malwarebytes to turn counterfeit license keys into good ones for free

The anti-virus maker will begin replacing counterfeit and pirated license keys.

(Image: MalwareBytes)

Malwarebytes is offering users of its anti-virus software up to 12 months' worth of protection for free if they are using an illegal or unauthorized license key.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company said it will replace the keys of its anti-virus software for those who have been "inconvenienced by piracy or abuse." The so-called "amnesty" program will ensure keys that don't work will be replaced for future use.

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Chief executive Marcin Kleczynski said in a forum post that the move was in part because in the early days he "picked a very insecure license key algorithm" which made generating pirate keys easy.

"The problem with pirated keys it that they may collide with a legitimate key just by the sheer numbers," said Kleczynski. "Yes, this is silly, and yes, this is literally the first thing a professional software company thinks of when building license key generation, but when you think you're building a product for just a few people you don't hash out these details."

The company is now moving towards a stronger license key system, but in the meantime the company said there was no simple way to prevent legitimate users from losing out.

"If you are a true pirate, the furthest you will get is a year's worth of Malwarebytes," said Kleczynski.

The company has a history of leniency and promoting fair-use of its products, even if it comes at a cost. Two years ago, the company asked users to buy its products instead of downloading them illegally by including a fake entry in the malware report saying, "dont.steal.our.software."

Speaking to TorrentFreak at the time, Malwarebytes' vice-president of research Bruce Harrison said being aggressive against piracy is one of the "quickest ways to alienate your fans."