Malware Rates linked to Windows Piracy: MS Report

Dennis Faas's picture

According to Jeff Williams, the principal group program manager for the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, computers in countries with high rates of software piracy are more likely to be infected by malicious code because users are leery of applying security patches.

In China, the piracy rate is nearly four times higher than that of the U.S., according to a recent Microsoft report. Oddly enough, the use of Microsoft's Windows Update service (used to patch security flaws) in these countries is significantly less than in the U.S. (Source:

Brazil and France were identified as two more countries where piracy rates are rather high, while Windows Update usage is fairly low.

Analysts Not Convinced by MS Report

However, analysts have claimed that the data presented by Williams is not supported by previous Microsoft figures. China, for example, produced a malware infection rate of just 6.7. These statistics were produced by the number of computers cleaned for each 1,000 executions of the Malicious Software Removal Tool. This figure is much lower than the global average of 8.7 or the U.S. average of 8.2 per thousand. (Source:

France also boasted an infection rate of 7.9 in the first half of 2009. This figure is still lower than the worldwide and U.S. average.

In essence, of the three countries Microsoft identified when correlating Windows Update reluctance to high national piracy rates, only Brazil fit Williams' argument. In Brazil, the infection rate stands at 25.4 -- almost three times the global average.

WGA: Class-Action Nightmare for Microsoft

One way to bring down piracy numbers is by invalidating unlicensed copies of Windows worldwide. However, Microsoft must be careful not to make the same mistakes it made over three years ago with the improper execution of the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), an anti-counterfeit validation and notification technology.

In June 2006, Microsoft pushed a version of the WGA to Windows XP users via a "high-priority" update that was automatically downloaded and installed to machines. Days later, thousands of machines were mistakenly targeted for running counterfeit copies of Windows. (Source:

The error resulted in a massive class-action lawsuit. If Microsoft executes a similar validation run, you can bet that all of the kinks will have been worked out this time around -- or else.

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