The chance of infection by malware from counterfeit software is three in 10 for businesses, and one in three for consumers, according to a new study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by research firm IDC.
The research also found that enterprises spend $114bn (£75bn) dealing with the resulting malware-induced cyber-attacks.
The study, which is part of Microsoft's Play it Safe Campaign, analysed 270 websites and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, 108 software downloads and 155 CDs or DVDs. It also took into account interviews with 2,077 consumers and 258 IT managers or CIOs in the UK, US, China, India, Brazil, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Poland and Thailand.
Researchers found that nearly half (45 per cent) of counterfeit software comes from the internet, and that 78 per cent of this downloaded software from websites or P2P networks included some type of spyware, while 36 per cent contained Trojans and ad-ware.
In an interview with Computing, Microsoft general manager of worldwide anti-piracy Dinis Couto said that a lot of counterfeit is touted as "genuine software with a discount" of 10 to 20 per cent, adding that the malware that often lurks within it can lead to identity fraud, credit card information theft, data loss and other security problems.
Michala Wardell, anti-piracy and IP manager for Microsoft UK, added that software that needed a key in order to be activated could be downloaded malware-free but then the key itself might contain some form of malware.
"What we are seeing is that this is not happening by accident, we have many cases of organised criminals using counterfeit software to fund other types of crime," Couto explained.
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