A flurry of fifty-five criminal and civil lawsuits against sellers of counterfeit software hit targets in the United States and ten other countries as Microsoft tries to crack down on the threat to its main revenue business.
|“…’you get the ankles and I’ll get the wrists’…”|
Microsoft’s legal blitz against alleged counterfeit software dealers began in earnest. The company announced it has focused on sellers who use eBay and other online auction sites to pass off this illegal software as genuine to unsuspecting customers.
The crackdown on violators has been part of Microsoft’s Genuine Software initiative. Microsoft is on the cusp of releasing Office 2007 and the Vista operating system, and wants to put as many potential threats to its revenue stream out of action.
A series of warnings to vendors selling illicit Microsoft software, including cease and desist notices as well as complaints to auction hosts who took down offending auctions, preceded the spate of lawsuits. Microsoft noted “in each case subsequent investigation and/or test purchases revealed copyright and trademark infringement by the defendant seller.”
“Counterfeit software is defective and dangerous because counterfeiters tamper with the genuine software code, which leaves the door open to identity theft and other serious security breaches,” said Matt Lundy, a senior attorney at Microsoft. “It is simply not worth putting your personal and confidential information at risk to save a few dollars on software.”
The security angle being presented by Microsoft as a rationale for avoiding the purchase of counterfeit software comes in response to a study performed by IDC during this past summer.
“Our research confirmed that searching for and finding counterfeit software on the Internet can be the cyberspace equivalent of driving a car with defective tires,” John Gantz, senior vice president of IDC, said. Microsoft sponsored the study that produced these findings:
The malicious and unwanted code found is indicative of the shift noted by security professionals in attackers’ motivations. Attacks have evolved from hacking for fun to seeking confidential information assets and other malicious intent. By offering pirated software, crack tools, and key generators, attackers could lure potential victims.
We will likely see Microsoft play up the security aspect more as Vista nears launch. Computer security issues have made the mainstream media numerous times over the past 18 months, and Microsoft can probably use the fear of identity theft to its advantage.