Hackers are always looking for ways to get to your pocketbook. One popular scam is fake software and it’s so good, you may not know you’ve been hit.
The scammers reel you in with deep discounts on software. I found ads on Craigslist for Windows 7 for just $45. I sent my producer to buy a copy and then got in touch with the experts at Microsoft.
“This is a horrible experience to the customer who buys that disk,” said Microsoft’s Donal Keating.
Keating works in Microsoft’s cyberforensics lab. It’s the central nervous system for the company’s 24/7 war on cyber crime. He inspected our disk and found all kinds of nasty things on it.
“There was all the bread crumbs left behind from the hacking process. So files we recognize as being bad files associated with things like a hacker’s handbook and kill files that people use to clean up their trail,” explained Keating.
Whoever would have purchased this disk wouldn’t have even gotten on the internet because it’s missing key drivers to make that happen.
“A computer that doesn’t connect to the internet is as useful as a chocolate fireplace,” joked Keating.
Talk about getting burned – Keating says he’s seen disks that contain dangerous malware and key loggers.
“When you get recordable disks from the suspect supply chain, you are vulnerable to malware. Malware is a huge problem for society at large,” said Keating. “I think it’s one of the fastest growing crimes that are happening today.”
Bonnie MacNaughton is the assistant general counsel for Microsoft. Her team goes after the bad guys and since 42% of the world’s software is pirated, they’re busy.
“We actually have removed 1.5 million infringements a month, so about 20 million a year. That’s the largest program being run by any company in the world, in order to clean these marketplaces so that consumers have a better chance of getting genuine product,” explained MacNaughton.
You can get a better sense of their program by looking at a world map that is covered in tiny dots. Each dot, some 500,000 complaints is being investigated by Microsoft.
“We send out warning letters, we file cease and desist letters, we file lawsuits, if we have to we refer them to criminal authorities,” said MacNaughton. “Each of these particular suppliers is visited by Microsoft in one way or another and strongly advised to get out of the business of distributing counterfeit software.”
Before you install any software you’ve bought online, check the packaging. The disc label shouldn’t peel off because it should be embedded. And if you’ve purchased bootleg software, let the company know because you may be eligible for a free replacement.
“We will work with them to support making a determination whether or not their product is genuine and we will then support them in getting a genuine product if they’ve been deceived,” said MacNaughton.
So ask yourself this before buying a bootleg copy of Windows. If you can’t afford an original operating system in the first place, how are you going to possibly afford to repair or replace your computer once it’s been infected by a fake product?