About 80 per cent of counterfeit software sold online has some kind of malware, infection or other problem, according to a new study from Microsoft and the International Data Corporation.
As a result of these infections, consumers are spending US$22 billion (Dh80.8bn) and 1.5 billion hours trying to identify and repair the damages, while enterprises around the world are having to fork out $114bn to deal with such malware attacks.
“Almost half of piracy comes from internet and peer-to-peer websites that pretend to be selling genuine software,” said Dinis Cuoto, the general manager of antipiracy at Microsoft. “One out of every three PCs that have counterfeit software are infected with some kind of virus. This is a very serious issue.”
The rate of counterfeit software in the UAE was 37 per cent in 2011, the lowest in the region and better than the global average of 42 per cent.
“It is a good number compared to the region. Qatar’s rate is 50 per cent and Oman is 61 per cent, but it is still $208 million in lost business,” said Mr Cuoto.
Counterfeit software has become a lucrative source of income for criminals, according to Mr Cuto.
“What we’re seeing is more and more organised crime using software activities as one of the ways to fund their activities. It is a lot less risky to counterfeit software than to deal with drugs, arms or pornography,” he said.
These gangs have moved away from selling pirated versions on CDs, but instead have set up websites that claim to sell genuine software at a discounted price.
“They make money twice. They sell you the software at a 15 per cent to 20 per cent discount and then they take control of your machine … They can steal your credit card, bank account information and take control of your machine to invade other machines,” said Mr Cuoto.
Yemen has the highest rate of piracy at 89 per cent in the region, followed by Algeria at 84 per cent.