In its battle against software pirates, Microsoft says it has settled 3,265 copyright infringement cases around the globe in the past year and warns of links to malware distribution.
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Most of Microsoft enforcement cases have resulted from consumer tips and reports.
Since 2005, Microsoft has received more than 450,000 reports of counterfeit software, which it said is often riddled with malware.
Embedding malware in counterfeit software is an increasingly popular way for cyber criminals to infect the computers of unsuspecting consumers and businesses.
Dealing with malware in counterfeit software will cost global enterprises an estimated $114bn in 2013, according to research organisation IDC.
The potential losses from data breaches could reach nearly $350bn, according to a study of the dangers of pirated and counterfeit software, commissioned by Microsoft.
The study found consumers will spend 1.5 billion hours and $22bn identifying, repairing and recovering from the impact of malware in counterfeit software.
Read more about counterfeit software
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Researchers said that, although some computer users may actively seek pirated software to save money, the chances of infection by unexpected malware are one in three for consumers and three in 10 for businesses.
“Software counterfeiting negatively impacts local and global economic growth, stifles innovation, and puts consumers and businesses at risk,” said David Finn, associate general counsel in the Microsoft Cybercrime Center.
Copyright infringement in China and India
Among the settled cases was Microsoft’s agreement with the Ningbo Beyond Group of China, which had allegedly infringed the software company’s copyrights in Microsoft’s Windows, Office, Server and Visual Studio software.
“We look forward to the Ningbo Beyond Group also resolving important claims filed this January by the California attorney general,” said Finn.
Attorney General Kamala Harris filed lawsuits against Ningbo and Pratibha Syntex of India, which allegedly did not pay licensing fees for products from Microsoft, Adobe, Symantec and other software producers.
The case claims the two international apparel manufacturers gained an unfair competitive advantage over US companies by using pirated software in the production of clothing imported and sold in California.
“Companies across the globe should be on notice that they will be held accountable in California for stealing our intellectual property,” Harris said.
A study by the Orange County Business Council found that California has lost nearly 400,000 manufacturing and technology jobs over the past decade to countries where piracy rates are as high as 80%.