Despite crackdowns on sellers of pirated software, syndicates are still pursuing this lucrative trade openly. Now, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism (MDTCC) has had enough and promises harsher penalties, with buyers coming under fire as well.
In the middle of 2017, the MDTCC carried out a raid on a syndicate selling counterfeit Microsoft products. The products were so complete that they even had fake certificates of authenticity (COA). The operation netted more than 1,000 fake COAs and other counterfeit Microsoft products valued at more than RM800,000.
According to MDTCC Director of Enforcement Dato’ Mohd Roslan Mahayudin, those found guilty of such activities face penalties of RM10,000 for each infringement or imprisonment for a jail term of not exceeding 3 years as provided under the Trade Description Act 2012.
Dato’ Roslan also informed that it was known that such sellers frequently used online marketplaces to carry out their illegal activities. This has resulted in unsuspecting buyers purchasing pirated software thinking that they were genuine.
To combat the sale of counterfeit software at online marketplaces, the MDTCC has brought together five online marketplaces – Lazada, 11street, Lelong.my, Mudah.my, and LogOn – to sign a pledge to remove any sale of counterfeit Microsoft software from their portals.
“The MDTCC is gravely concerned with the increasing rise in fake and counterfeit goods being sold as genuine at many online marketplaces. In this regard, the MDTCC continues to be vigilant against any online seller peddling counterfeit goods as genuine in their effort to deceive unsuspecting buyers. No effort will be spared in dealing with these unscrupulous online cheaters,” said Roslan.
MDTCC will also be going a step further in future and compel sellers who are caught to provide a list of customers who have purchased pirated software. This will allow MDTCC to potentially carry out further enforcement actions.
Increased cybersecurity risk
Aside from the fact that the sale of pirated software is theft, according to Kaspersky Lab General Manager, SEA, Yeo Siang Tiong (pic), the licenses being sold at some of these non-authorised outlets or online, could be shared licenses – sold to multiple users-, or could be licences from other regions.
“These users might not get what they have paid for, and most likely would not get the support for the product should something go wrong,” said Yeo.
Yeo also added that more often than not while appearing to look exactly like the real software, the codes could have been changed to incorporate some malicious codes within it, to create a backdoor for hackers.
“Another method usually used by these sellers to activate the products would be the use of a program called KeyGen (Key Generator). However, in order to use a keygen, the anti-virus program needs to be switched off, thereby creating an opening for an attack. Keygens are designed by hackers. They have been known to bundle these keygens with malware, to benefit from others for purposes such as installing malwares, or stealing information,” he said.
Some sellers even provide download links to “crack” files. These cracks modify parts of the program in order to work, which can result in anything from minor glitches to significant security vulnerabilities, potentially letting cybercriminials have full access to the user’s computer.
“We would like to remind everyone about the importance of buying licensed products from either authorised partners or official stores. When buying online, it would be best to buy from the developer’s website itself,” added Yeo.
How to tell if your Microsoft software is genuine
The first sign of pirated software is usually a price tag that is far below what Genuine products cost. They could sell for as low as ten percent of genuine products, and even offer bargains of coming with ‘lifetime licenses’ for products which normally require annual subscriptions.
Aside from that, Genuine Microsoft products also often come with anti-counterfeit COAs as well as product key labels (see pics: L-Genuine COA, R-Product Key Label).
For businesses, Microsoft offers several easy, affordable licensing solutions that can help ensure that organizations have genuine Microsoft software. For more information, contact your local Microsoft volume licensing representative or authorized Microsoft reseller and ask them about Get Genuine Solutions.
What you can do if you may have pirated software
If you believe that you may have inadvertently bought pirated software, please contact the MDTCC and arrange for a return of the product.
Call MDTCC Toll free at 1-800-886-800 or visit their official portal
Remember, piracy is theft and carries harsh penalties under the law.