Microsoft Philippines: Viruses, Malware in Southeast Asia

2013-02-25 10.39.12

Keshav Dhakad, Microsoft director of Intellectual Property for Asia Pacific and Japan

Over a year ago, at a roundtable in Manila held to promote its Play Fair Day
software initiative, Microsoft Philippines presented the high points of a study
done with the Harrison Group, which aimed to explore the drawbacks of using
pirated software. In a nutshell, they found that a number of the computers
running pirated operating systems became infected by worms, viruses, and
Trojans. Many of the PCs that downloaded and installed malicious software on
their own were significantly slower when opening and printing documents and
loading content-rich webpages, and suffered from poorer battery life as well.

Microsoft has just revealed the results of a new forensic study on malware
threats that examined branded PCs with pirated software installed, as well
as DVDs containing counterfeit software sourced from Indonesia, Malaysia,
Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The study, which examined a total of 282 computers and DVDs, determined an
average malware infection rate of 69 percent across the region. Further, and
more importantly, pirated copies of Windows with embedded malware were
found in sample PCs from well-known brands such as Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP,
Lenovo, and Samsung.

Microsoft, however, believes that neither said counterfeit software nor malware
were installed by these manufacturers, claiming instead that unscrupulous
retailers or individuals in the downstream supply chain who may illegally
duplicate and sell pirated software may instead be the culprits.

This revelation makes it doubly important for consumers who purchase PCs –
and who may assume that the accompanying operating system may be legitimate
on the assumption that known PC brands come with legitimate software – to
look beyond brands and check operating systems before purchasing. Nor can
purchasing anti-virus software make up for running pirated operating systems.

“If a consumer can’t verify that the computer they purchased was shipped with a
pre-installed, genuine copy of Windows,” said Keshav Dhakad, Microsoft director
of Intellectual Property for Asia Pacific and Japan, “their risk of exposure to
viruses and spyware – and the potential for data corruption, theft, and financial
loss – increases exponentially.”

The study’s results in a nutshell

– While infection rates of pirated software varied significantly across the
region, the samples from the Philippines displayed the lowest volume of
infected PCs (42 percent, or two out of every five computers and DVDs
– The samples from Vietnam were the worst infected: fully 66 percent of
pirated DVDs and 92 percent of hard drives were infested with malware.
In the Southeast Asia sample as a whole, 5,601 instances and 1,131
unique strains of malware and virus infections were counted.
– Of the malware found, 3,703 were adjudged to be ‘hostile’, whereas 1,898
were capable of modifying the operating system to disable automatic security
updates and firewalls.
– Trojans, which appear innocuous and legitimate but in actuality are
malicious, accounted for the majority of malicious software discovered
(approximately 3,800 were found). Worms, viruses, cracked programs,
and hacker tools were also discovered.
– The pernicious ‘Zeus’ Trojan, which, according to the RSA 2012
Cybercrime Trends report has caused an estimated US$1bn in global
losses over the past five years, was found in many of the tested computers
and DVDs. Zeus is a Trojan that steals passwords through keylogging
and other methods in order to monitor online activity, steal personal
information, and use it to owners’ detriment – withdraw money from
accounts, make online purchases, and so on. It can even activate webcams
discreetly to enable hackers to take photographs of users.

Some good advice to avoid unknowingly purchasing pirated software

The following steps were presented to help purchasing pirated software

– Always insist on a genuine operating system when buying devices with
pre-installed OSs. If purchasing a PC with Windows, look for the genuine
label and Certificate of Authenticity – a Microsoft requirement to prove
legitimacy of installed software. If unsure, one can check legitimacy at
– Only buy from trusted resellers.
– Avoid deals that seem “too good to be true”.
– Only purchase software that comes in its original package.

Microsoft also urged users to report suspected purchases of pirated or
counterfeit software at