Microsoft files 52 lawsuits against resellers over counterfeits

Microsoft said yesterday that it is filing 52 lawsuits against resellers who allegedly sold counterfeit Microsoft software on

various online marketplaces. It is also referring 22 cases to local law enforcement in 22 countries. Fifteen of the lawsuits involve what Microsoft says is a counterfeiting syndicate that was broken up earlier this year in China. Microsoft says that customers "played a role in helping to identify the counterfeiters in these cases by filing piracy reports with Microsoft after anti-piracy technology in Windows Genuine Advantage indicated that their software was fake."

Specifically, Microsoft reports:

The 52 lawsuits filed today were filed in Belgium (1), Canada (1), France (3), Germany (12), Hong Kong (1), India (1), Ireland (1), Italy (2), Netherlands (7), Turkey (1), South Africa (1), the United Kingdom (6) and the United States (15). Twenty-two criminal cases were referred to law enforcement in Argentina (1), Belgium (1), China (1), Dominican Republic (2), France (3), India (1), Japan (2), Korea (2), Mexico (1), Panama (1), Poland (3), Taiwan (3) and Turkey (1).

Microsoft asserts that counterfeit software is risky for the consumer in that it is also more likely to contain malware. This line of reasoning is based on a study Microsoft commissioned from IDC . IDC found and tested 98 Web sites that offer access to counterfeit product keys, pirated software, key generators and key cracking tools. The study found that 25% of such Web sites also attempted to install malicious software onto a user's PC.

For the most part, such sites affect two kinds of buyers - those that are innocently looking for a bargain and those that are deliberately looking for pirated software. The innocent ones must also be unaware that when it comes to software, you get what you pay for. (Microsoft is releasing a guide to help buyers better recognize illegal software.) As for people who are deliberately seeking out pirated software or hacking tools, they ought to know that when they visit such sites, they themselves could be the target of an exploit.

The risks to U.S. enterprises that contract with resellers who are dealing in pirated goods is less known but most likely very low. It is logical to assume that if a reseller is trafficking illegal goods, the reseller wouldn't think twice about installing spam bots on its customer's network. However, the risk to the reseller of being caught and prosecuted is so high, that such a scenario is unlikely at best. Most of resellers of illicit goods target consumers via online marketplaces and auction sites.

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