There are two types of buyers of counterfeit software:
- Those who totally know that what they are buying is fake or unlicensed – sort of like buying a designer handbag from the guy with a blanket spread on the sidewalk
- Those who buy counterfeit software in good faith that they are getting the real thing, but for a slightly better price than from an authorized reseller
Now, while the following information is mainly for Customer #2 above, Customer #1 should also note the risks of using counterfeit software:
- Malware contamination of your PCs and network
- Security breach and data loss
- System downtime
- Legal liability
Microsoft released a white paper titled The Surprising Risk of Counterfeit Software in Business, which studied mid sized businesses in the UK. They discovered that many businesses become victims of counterfeiters not because they intentionally buy fakes, but because they are just trying to save money on software purchases. As illegal duplication technology gets more sophisticated, it is becoming more difficult to spot a fake, even for IT professionals.
The study also outlines how companies can protect themselves by only buying from trustworthy sources, learning to identify fakes, and creating centralized purchasing practices to control the source of any products introduced into the company’s IT system.
Microsoft offers a free tool for customers to figure out whether their software is genuine. You can run a free genuine validation check for their installed copy of Microsoft Windows or Office at the Genuine Microsoft Software Web site.
For networks with up to 250 computers, there is also a tool for companies to manage their existing software assets. The Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer (MSIA) (http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sam/msia.mspx) can help determine what Microsoft software is installed on computers in the network. The tool scans the network and creates a report (which Microsoft says is purely confidential and not sent back to them).
And one last note for Customer #1: If you can’t or won’t pay for MS products, you can always avoid doing anything illegal or risky by turning to a non-Microsoft software option like Open Office, or online solutions like Zoho, Google Docs, or many others.
Laura Leites, Assistant Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com