Most Counterfeit Software Includes Malware: Study

Dennis Faas's picture

A new study commissioned by Microsoft and carried out by researchers at IDC has found that most counterfeit software includes some kind of malware. The researchers also estimate that the total value of the counterfeit software market now exceeds $100 billion.

IDC recently published its findings in a report titled "The Dangerous World of Counterfeit and Pirated Software: How Pirated Software Can Compromise the Cybersecurity of Consumers, Enterprises, and Nations ... and the Resultant Costs in Time and Money."

Most Counterfeit Software Laced with Malware

In that report (which can be viewed in PDF form by clicking here) IDC provides a plethora of statistics regarding a growing counterfeit software market.

The most important stats, arguably: The total value of the counterfeit software market will hit $114 billion this year. Overall, it's estimated that one in three pieces of software available today are counterfeit. (Source:

The IDC study also took a close look at emerging security threats as a result of the growing counterfeit software market. For example, researchers found that 78 per cent of all pirated software comes laced with spyware.

Ressearchers also reported that 45 per cent of those people who used pirated software reported encountering serious performance errors that eventually forced them to uninstall the software.

Removing Malware Pricy, Time-Consuming Researchers Find

All told, IDC researchers found that in 2011 it cost people about $22 billion to remove the viruses, Trojan horses, keystroke-capturing programs, and spyware found in counterfeit software.

This year, it's expected that the amount of time invested in removing malware acquired through counterfeit software will hit 1.5 billion hours.

IDC researchers also note that, even if counterfeit software doesn't include malware, viruses, or other threats, the websites where that software is acquired -- including peer-to-peer networks -- often do leave users with some kind of computer infection.

To prevent your system from becoming infected, IDC recommends "installing firewalls on your PC, being attentive to security updates ... using up-to-date antimalware tools, and adhering to good security practices and policies." (Source:

The study was expansive, covering ten countries and involving more than 1,100 interviews. Nearly 1,000 businesses were involved in the study, IDC says.

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