The Malaysian government is making renewed efforts to combat software piracy, after the recent appearance of pirated copies of Microsoft's Longhorn operating system on sale for less than $3.
The Longhorn product will not be officially ready until 2005, but CDs have been on sale in the city of Johor Bahru, which is on the border of Singapore.
"Microsoft is aware of the pirated copies of Longhorn being sold in the country," said Jonathan Selvasegaram, a Microsoft attorney.
"The version of Longhorn which has been released to date are developer codes, not fit for business or consumer use as it is not a complete product."
Malaysian authorities will send mobile patrols to key locations such as shopping malls to try to stop the software piracy trade, said Sulaiman Mahbob, secretary general of the ministry of domestic trade and consumer affairs.
This is a new phase in the government's antipiracy drive, called Ops Tulen.
"By taking Ops Tulen right down to the street, the government wants all computer software users, especially commercial businesses, to know that we are serious about ridding Malaysia of software piracy," he said.
Ops Tulen combines enforcement with education and will advise senior company officials on the risks of using pirated software which may be flawed.
According to Selvasegaram, the risks of using the pirated Longhorn - which may have been copied from CDs offered at a developers' conference in the US - are severe.
"Customers who run the illegal copy of the product are doing so at their own risk since the product is incomplete and customers
are exposing themselves to vulnerabilities," he said.
Malaysia has strict antipiracy laws allowing for offenders to be jailed for up to five years, but officials admit their efforts are yet to show much success.
"Software piracy rates are still very high. In Malaysia, it is at 68%. This is bad for the country." said Sulaiman. "Software piracy harms everyone - businesses, consumers, students and community at large."
"We are working closely with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to ensure that our customers and businesses are protected," Selvasegaram said.
David Legard writes for IDG News Service