Microsoft takes on software pirates with regional crime labs

Microsoft has established nine regional crime labs around the world to counter the supposed scourge of software counterfeiting.

The labs – staffed by legions of forensic experts – are tasked with evaluating more than a half-million pieces of evidence each year submitted via anonymous tips, formal complaints and “voluntary” product registrations.

“Tens of thousands of people have contacted [us] to complain that one or another third party had sold them software that turned out to be counterfeit,” explained Microsoft associate general counsel David Finn.

“Many are angry at being cheated, but their even bigger problem is that counterfeit software may carry malware, spyware, or other viruses that can jeopardize their personal and financial information.”

According to Finn, Microsoft’s crime labs deploy innovative intelligence techniques and forensic technologies to “connect the dots” among disparate pieces of evidence and uncover how computer users are being victimized.

“Optical disc ‘fingerprinting,’ for instance, allows us to match counterfeits found on different continents and trace them to known production facilities,” said Finn.

“We use this intelligence to support international law enforcement in shutting down the highly organized criminal syndicates behind counterfeit software.”

He added that such intelligence capabilities had contributed to the recent dismantling of the largest software counterfeiting syndicate in history.

The syndicate, based in southern China, reportedly produced more than $2 billion worth of counterfeit software, including versions of 19 different Microsoft products in 11 languages, found in 36 countries.