Drug cartels supplying malware-infected pirated software, Microsoft warns

In a recent blog, Finn warned that these groups are using their profits from software counterfeiting to fund drug and weapons trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion. 

The Mexican drug cartel La Familia Michoacana is engaged in software counterfeiting activities involving a distribution network of 180,000 points of sale in stores, markets and kiosks, earning more than $2.2 million in revenue every day, Finn noted.

In addition to funding drug cartels, purchasing counterfeit software can open up consumers to all types of malware, Finn warned. This was a top concern expressed by consumers in a survey conducted by Microsoft.

According to the survey of 38,000 consumers in 20 countries, the top concerns about counterfeit software are data loss and ID theft as a result of malware.

In addition, Microsoft’s How to Tell website has received more than 300,000 comments since 2005 about counterfeit software. According to one commenter, J. J. from St. Cloud, Wisconsin: “the product came from another country and once installed, it caused my computer to crash, which will now only run in Safe Mode. When Safe Mode appeared, the Validation notification said it no longer had a VLK number. It looks like the real thing, but does not work!”

Another commenter, D. E. from Murrieta, California, said: "When beginning to load, a message appears saying, ‘Trojan virus continued’ and at the end, a message appeared saying, ‘copy US invalid.’”

According to the consumer survey, 65% of respondents called on government to act against counterfeit software, and 72% agreed that the software industry itself should be doing more.

“Given the global worldwide impact of the issue, and the fact that it touches so many lives, it’s crucial that organizations, governments, and businesses collaborate on a regular basis to share resources, build awareness, and generate new ideas in our effort to reduce piracy”, Finn concluded.

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