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Microsoft Security

Take these steps to stay safe from counterfeit software and fraudulent subscriptions

This post is authored by Matt Lundy, Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft. 

Software piracy and fraudulent subscriptions are serious, industry-wide problems affecting consumers and organizations around the world.

In 2016, 39 percent of all software installed on computers was not properly licensed, according to a survey conducted by BSA and The Software Alliance. And each year, tens of thousands of people report to Microsoft that they bought software that they later learned was counterfeit.

What can appear to be a too-good-to-be-true deal for a reputable software program, can in fact be a counterfeit copy or a fraudulent subscription. In many cases, such illegitimate software downloads may also be riddled with malware – including computer viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, or even botware, designed to damage your computer, destroy your data, compromise your security, or steal your identity. And in the world of cloud computing, where many applications are often delivered as a subscription service, consumers could be unwittingly sending payments to cybercriminals, unaware that cybercriminals selling fraudulent subscriptions will not provide needed administrative support.

Curbing the proliferation of software piracy

Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to trick consumers– and the outcome can be costly. According to report released by the Ponemon Institute in 2017, the average cost of cybercrime globally climbed to $11.7M per organization, a staggering 62 percent increase over the last five years. And a recent Juniper Research report, Cybercrime & the Internet of Threats 2017, states that “the estimated cost to the global economy as a result of cybercrime is projected to be $8 trillion by 2022.”

How do cybercriminals deceive consumers? There are many ways. One common technique is to set up a fake website that falsely claims the software subscriptions or copies offered for sale on the site are legitimate. Sophisticated cybercriminals go to great lengths to make their websites look authentic to trick consumers into buying fraudulent subscriptions or counterfeit software.

For decades, through partnerships with industry, governments, and other agencies, Microsoft has been working to fight software counterfeiting and to protect consumers from the dangers posed by this and other types of cybercrime. Today, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU), a unique group of cybercrime-fighting investigators, analysts, and lawyers, works globally to detect and prevent fraud targeting our customers. Our priority is to protect our customers and help create a secure experience for everyone. One of the key ways we do this is to work with law enforcement and other organizations to bring the perpetrators of cybercrime to justice.

In addition to the innovative technology and legal strategies that the Microsoft DCU uses to combat counterfeit products and fraudulent subscriptions globally, the company also aims to raise awareness of this issue among consumers and help protect them from the risks associated with counterfeit software and fraudulent subscriptions.

Protect yourself from software piracy and fraud

While software companies and law enforcement are working to curb cybercriminals’ ability to counterfeit and sell software and services, consumers can help protect themselves by remaining vigilant and only purchasing through legitimate sources. In addition, if you do come across illegitimate sources or you discover you have inadvertently purchased suspect counterfeit Microsoft software, report your experiences to Microsoft.

Here are a few useful Microsoft resources to help you protect yourself from inadvertently purchasing counterfeit software or fraudulent software subscriptions as well as resources in case you think you may have done so: