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Microsoft talks up software piracy take-downs

MS 'helps convict more than 400 counterfeiters'

One of the results of Microsoft's years of effort to crack down on software piracy and counterfeiting is an automated software validation system first revealed in 2005 called Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA).

WGA started as an update for Windows XP but then was built into Windows Vista. Concerns were raised in its early days over bugs that would identify people's genuine copies of Windows as counterfeit or pirated, but Microsoft seems to have smoothed out the process since then.

Though it's just one of many tactics Microsoft is using to crack down on piracy and counterfeiting, the software-validation system has been instrumental in finding and prosecuting people around the world for criminal activity around its software, Finn said. Another strategy the company and local authorities have used include sending investigators to make test purchases of software

Open-source proponents who advocate that software should be free from proprietary software licensing restrictions have criticised Microsoft for waging such a relentless legal fight against piracy and counterfeiting. However, Finn said the cases Microsoft is prosecuting around the world are typically not against individuals who may make a copy of Windows or Office and pass it on to their friends.

"We're talking about organised criminal syndicates who earn millions and millions of dollars by defrauding people all over the world," he said. Finn added that often the software they sell to unsuspecting buyers also contains malicious code.

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