Windows

Pirated copies of Windows OS in China prone to security issues

PCs running on pirated copies of Windows wide open to malware, says Microsoft. The company has launched an anti-piracy campaign to address such risks.

Chinese PCs running on bootleg versions of the Windows operating system (OS) are prone to security issues, says Microsoft, as it launched a new anti-piracy campaign to highlight the security risks inherent to running pirated software.

As part of a recent investigation, Microsoft purchased 169 PCs from shops in China; all of the PCs were running counterfeit copies of Windows, and 91% of the machines came with malware or deliberate security vulnerabilities. PCs installed with the pirated copies of Windows include well-known brands Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, among other Chinese computer makers. It is understood that the pirated OSs are likely installed by a third party who preloads Windows over the non-Windows OS that are originally on these machines when they leave the factory. The Computerworld article that reported this story also noted a study by the Business Software Alliance that pegged China's illegal software market is valued at $9 billion (compared to the legal market at $2.7 billion).

Though it wasn't mentioned in the Computerworld article, it is likely that malware were inadvertently loaded through cloning of an infected copy. Cracked copies of Windows could also see Windows Update disabled to prevent Microsoft from detecting them. The latter is an especially serious problem given that such machines will get progressively more vulnerable as security updates and patches are released on Patch Tuesdays each month.

Software piracy in the region can be a tricky problem to solve on a number of levels. One of the primary problems pertains to cost -- that few hundred dollars for a legitimate copy of a software application could stack up to a full month's wages for a professional in China. To its credit, Microsoft China has long attempted to address this by pricing Windows substantially lower in the country.

The other issue has to do with a culture of piracy in China, as well as some other countries in the Asia region. In some locales, it is possible to find shops that sell only pirated software. This widespread availability of counterfeit software puts intense pressure on local businesses determined to use only licensed applications, due to the higher operational cost that they incur over their competitors. On the other hand, businesses that succumb to the pressure reinforce the culture of piracy.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

9 comments
Chashew
Chashew

Getting more than barganed for sometimes goes without saying. If you read the made in labels on almost every product on the planet you will more than likely see made in some Asian country. Due to cost of manufacture this is a norm. Ok so why the hacks and OS cracks ? Cost again as well as spying on other businesses is also profitable for some. Now if your nervous join the group but not much will help until we the consumer demand brain dead machines in all stores and let us buy the OS and either install it or have it done. Not a surefire way of getting a clean machine but it's a start. I get a kick out of all the products I see made overseas...what we get is what we get. Black markets will be around for as long as the world turns and have been around for longer than most people have been alive today. Sad but true.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo - you CAN'T find any for sale in any shops around here without Windows on them, and finding any without Windows on their websites is damned hard as well. It reminds me of the early days of WGA on XP, it was SO touchy that it kept declaring valid systems as a pirate because you replaced the hard drive or video card or similar. Experience showed that the only version of Windows WGA could NOT shut down were the actual pirate copies as they didn't have the code to allow the shut down in them.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"PCs installed with the pirated copies of Windows include well-known brands Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, among other Chinese computer makers. It is understood that the pirated OSs are likely installed by a third party who preloads Windows over the non-Windows OS that are originally on these machines when they leave the factory." Ah, the irony. Try getting a machine in the US from these vendors WITHOUT Windows pre-installed. Yet countries where other OSs are preloaded, pirates turn around and load Windows. Why don't the vendors just switch distribution channels? Paul's article mentions it briefly at the end, but there's nothing unique to China about pirating software.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

How exactly would you know that you have a Pirate copy of any Microsoft Product? It's one thing deliberately buying a Pirate Copy but I'm guessing here that most people who buy these systems don't know what it is that they are buying exactly. I've seen the same thing in Au with some resellers who's ethics leave a lot to be desired selling complete systems with Volume License Product that they purchased as an Action Pack on all systems that they sell and passing them off as Genuine. If you can find a way to make a couple of hundred $ per unit that is a massive profit for them and a great reason why they would want to do things like this. The Profit on selling Hardware is next to nonexistent so the License Costs of Microsoft Product is a great incentive for many. Doesn’t matter what the costs of the License are to those it’s pure profit which is something that they simply would never be making doing things the right way. Col

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

Most DRM systems inconvenience legitimate users and have no effect on Pirates.

Slayer_
Slayer_

And worse still, corporations are totally blind to this fact. They should be making it easier for paying customers, not harder.

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