Police found using pirated MS software

Illegal copies of Microsoft products believed to be widespread

Police across the UK have bought and installed counterfeit Microsoft software, an investigation conducted by the City of London Police has discovered.

Four individuals have been arrested and released without charge, a spokesman for the City of London Police said Monday. They were detained under the Trade Description Act.

The scandal comes days after the Business Software Alliance announced £10,000 rewards for information leading to the capture of corporate piracy offenders.

Hampshire Police, which is responsible for recommending software to other forces in the UK, recommended the counterfeit software to other forces last year. City of London Police traced the bogus editions of Microsoft Office Pro 97 to a company also based in Hampshire called Protocol Solutions.

A City of London spokesman was, however, unable to give a clear idea how many police computer systems could be fitted with the imitation software. "I can't give a definitive answer," he said. "I don't think that anybody can. It's a complex, ongoing case."

The counterfeit software was of a high-quality, complete with fake packaging and documentation. The City Police spokesman said that Police forces in the UK will review their policies for selecting and purchasing software.

According to reports, the Association of Chief Police Officers has also ordered an inquiry into the extent of the problem and possible security implications.

Microsoft has taken an increasing interest in illegal copying and distribution of its software products in recent months. It recently launched a global initiative to track down pirated software on the Internet and has also looked at other means or distributing its software including renting it out by the hour in Internet cafes.

The software company confirmed that it is cooperating with police in their enquiries but declined the opportunity to comment further on the incident.

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