Although some computer users may actively seek pirated software in hopes of saving money, the chances of infection by unexpected malware are one in three for consumers and three in 10 for businesses, according to a new study commissioned by Microsoft Corp.and conducted by IDC.
As a result of these infections, the research shows that in 2013, consumers will spend 1.5 billion hours and $22 billion identifying, repairing and recovering from the impact of malware, while global enterprises will spend $114 billion to deal with the impact of a malware-induced cyber-attack.
Asia-Pacific, with more than half the world's population, nearly half the Internet users, and 40% of the world's PCs, and also half the world's pirated software, was the largest region in the study. Enterprise survey respondents said 32% of their PCs come without operating systems, and 12% don't install security updates. 30% of consumer respondents don't install security updates, and nearly 70% of consumers who use pirated software have had problems with it.
“Software is pirated in order to save money, however, the reality is that with pirated and counterfeit software, the user ends up paying for malware, Trojan, adware and other harmful viruses,” said SumeetKhanna, Director – Genuine Software Initiative, Microsoft India. “Some of these malware amounts to tracking every move of the user and have the capability to steal user’s personal and financial details, allowing cybercrimes to take place.”
“Our research is unequivocal: Inherent dangers lurk for consumers and businesses that take a chance on counterfeit software,” said John Gantz, chief researcher at IDC. “Some people choose counterfeit to save money, but this ‘ride-along’ malware ends up putting a financial and emotional strain on both the enterprise and casual computer users alike.”
Highlights from the consumer survey are:
• Sixty-four percent of the respondents who had used counterfeit software experienced security issues.
• Forty-five percent of the time counterfeit software slowed their PCs, and software had to be uninstalled.
• Forty-eight percent of respondents noted that their greatest concern with using counterfeit software was data loss.
• Twenty-nine percent were most concerned with identity theft.
Embedding malware with counterfeit software is a new method for criminals to prey on computer users who are unaware of the potential danger.
The Microsoft-commissioned study also found that a very high percentage of corporate users download software unauthorized as per their corporate policy, exposing another risk to the workplace. Although 38 percent of IT managers acknowledge that it happens, 57 percent of workers admit they install personal software on employer-owned computers. What is alarming is that respondents told IDC that only 30% of the software they installed on their work computers was problem-free. 65% percent of IT managers agree that user-installed software increases an organization’s security risks. For many in the enterprise, user-installed software may be a blind spot in ensuring a secure network.