Redmond to take on counterfeiting

Microsoft announced today that it hopes to improve user awareness of counterfeit software’s security risks by launching The Genuine Software Initiative.

The new anti-piracy initiative is Microsoft's latest attempt to combat software counterfeiting. The three-pronged program focuses on several key elements: education, engineering and enforcement. The latter two are an extension of on-going Microsoft efforts, the company said.

Microsoft said that it will continue to work with government officials to take action against counterfeiters and to invest in development of anti-counterfeiting technology. As a part of GSI engineering improvements, Microsoft developed Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) tools for customers seeking to check the authenticity of their software.

The education component of the Genuine Software Initiative is what differentiates it from past Microsoft campaigns against piracy. Rather than concentrating on the losses that phony software inflicts on the industry, Microsoft calls concern for user security to the spotlight.

"It used to be that we were dealing simply with unlicensed counterfeit copies of software, which hurt Microsoft and the ecosystem of partners that makes a living selling our products," said Cori Hartje, director of license compliance at Microsoft. "Today the problem is much bigger, and it's our responsibility to do whatever we can to help protect consumers."

Experts believe that forged software poses heightened risks to system security due to potentially incomplete code included in illegal software adaptations, as well as the inability to download security updates. In addition, users run the risk of credit card theft when willingly dealing with the criminal elements that peddle these wares.

"It's a different, more dangerous world," said Laura DiDio, analyst for Yankee Group. "Consumers or businesses that deploy counterfeit software put their PCs and networks at peril for encountering tampered code, viruses and even credit card theft. In the end, the consumer and the corporation may suffer just as much, if not more, harm than the software vendors."

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