During their Asia PC Test Purchase Sweep, Microsoft concluded that more than 83 percent of brand new PCs in Asia were loaded with pirated software. This was possible because, in several Asian markets like India, customers were offered better deals on new PCs with “free” software bundles which in many cases were pirated software sold at lower prices. The Asia PC Test Purchase Sweep examined a total of 166 new PCs from 9 markets across Asia – India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Microsoft’s Asia PC Test Purchase Sweep is aimed that educating users on the risks that PCs with pirated software pose to an organisation or an individual. The test weep also revealed that vendors often turned off security features like Windows Defender or anti-virus to install pirated software. This leaves PCs vulnerable to malware and other cyberthreats, and the buyers of these PCs may not even realise that their PC is not being protected.
Amongst the PCs running pirated software, 84 percent of the machines were in some way affected by malware which could be anything from trojans to viruses. For a lay person, trojans are malware employed by cybercriminals to gain remote access and control of devices which will allow them to spy on the users and steal private data. Viruses. on the other hand, caused infected PCs to go haywire by terminating actions, sending spam messages, and contacting remote hosts to download additional malware.
On most occasions, these PCs are sold through special deals which are cheap and come bundled with free software. Unaware users won’t even realise that security features of their PCs have been turned off thus failing to spot suspicious activities. These are one of the major reasons users of PC are vulnerable to data loss that includes personal, sensitive information like bank details and passwords.
Microsoft Asia Digital Crimes Unit Regional Director, Mary Jo Schrade said “Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their techniques to evade security measures, and embedding their malware into pirated software is one of their tactics as it allows them to compromise large numbers of PCs and access vast amount of stolen credentials with ease. When vendors sell pirated software containing malware in their PCs, they are not only fueling the spread of malware in the region but are also putting their customers’ personal information and digital identity at the mercy of cybercriminals”.
In order to stay protected from trojans and viruses, it’s always recommended to buy PCs from established retailers and not ones that also sell pirated software. Users should also refer to a vendor website to check whether the software they use is genuine or not. Additionally, users should keep in mind to stay updated to the latest version of a software and avoid using very old software which has reached its end of life and is no longer supported by the software vendor for updates and security patches. Furthermore, it’s advised to follow safe Internet practices, meaning avoiding to visit dangerous websites that offer adult content, illegal downloads, and pirated software, as well as file sharing portals.