Large businesses were urged to check the authenticity of their Microsoft packages this week after a software supplier was forced to set aside £700,000 to compensate customers it had inadvertently supplied with counterfeit products.
Microsoft warned that millions of pounds worth of counterfeit products were likely to have found their way into corporate systems, as investigations continue into a multimillion-pound business software counterfeiting scam exposed by a joint FBI and National Crime Squad investigation last year.
ICM Computer, one of the victims of the scam, unwittingly bought counterfeit Office products from PC manufacturer ASI, which is now in receivership, between 1997 and 2000. “We are currently working with Microsoft and with affected customers to resolve this issue,” ICM said.
ICM was just one of many organisations believed to have unknowingly received forged Microsoft products produced by a counterfeiting operation with links in the US and the Far East.
The perpetrators of the scam, led by Nabil Bakir, owner of PC Software in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, were jailed for a total of 10 years in July 2002 after a seven-month trial.
Police seized large quantities of certificates of authenticity, which had been stolen in armed raids on software manufacturing plants in Scotland and Ireland.
Julia Phillpott, group manager at Microsoft, said companies of every size were at risk from counterfeit software, which can often contain viruses and may contain incomplete code.
“Most companies think this is a problem for small businesses. They do not realise how many large organisations, even if they have central purchasing units, can be affected,” she said.
Microsoft is working with one “huge” UK organisation that acquired 1,000 counterfeit copies of Microsoft Office, Phillpott said.
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