The Anti-Piracy team at Microsoft launched a global campaign this week to inform small businesses about the risk of counterfeit software creeping into their business when acquiring or downloading software from the Internet. Most business buyers know to avoid questionable street-corner vendors when purchasing software for their business, yet they may not think twice about ordering software from an unfamiliar but professional looking website that offers steep discounts.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Counterfeit software lurks around every corner and can find its way into business settings in a number of different ways - auction websites, peer-to-peer networks, online retailers selling illegal software - there are several common paths. And counterfeiters spend a lot of time and energy making illicit software-purchasing sites look and feel like the real thing.

Keep Your Business Safe

In a test of software acquired through common channels, The Harrison Group found in August 2011 that 24 percent of machines that run counterfeit software either became infected at installation or downloaded and installed malicious software upon connection to the Internet.

On the other hand, PCs that run legitimate Windows and Microsoft Office products outperformed pirated copies 75 percent of the time and by an average of 53 percent when doing everyday business tasks. Why? Because genuine software comes with significant protection, including Windows Essentials and access to software updates.

If you run a business, look at it like this: Would you hire a new employee without any sort of interview or screening process? Of course not. So why let your business use critical software that you aren’t sure is genuine, reliable and safe? The consequences to your business can be enormous.

What Business Buyers Can Do

When looking online for the best software deals, remember that counterfeit software is everywhere. However, here are a few simple steps you can take to spot illegitimate software and keep your business safe:

· Shop smart – Know who you’re buying from so you don’t make yourself vulnerable to security breaches that will cost your business in downtime and tech support expenses.

· Visit How To Tell – Microsoft’s How To Tell website provides guidance on how to avoid counterfeit and pirated software. It also lets you report instances of illegal software.

· Support Microsoft Partners – We have an incredible network of Microsoft resellers and service providers that ensure business owners everywhere get the best possible software experience through technical support, Software Asset Management (SAM) implementation, knowledge and expertise to guide the growth of your business. Applications and services can be located through Microsoft Pinpoint.

Posted by Dinis Couto
General Manager, Worldwide Anti-Piracy, Microsoft