Cybercriminals exploit pirated software in Asia Pacific

Wednesday, Jun 21, 2017 17:46

Keshav Dhakad, assistant general counsel and regional director of Digital Crimes Unit, Microsoft Asia present the study. — VNS Photo

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering on Wednesday released the results of its new study “Cybersecurity Risks from Non-Genuine Software.”

The study, commissioned by Microsoft, found that cybercriminals are compromising computers by embedding malware in pirated software and the online channels that offer them.

The study, which aims to quantify the link between software piracy and malware infections in Asia Pacific, discovered that 100 per cent of the websites that host pirated software download links expose users to multiple security risks, including advertisements with malicious programmes.

Among other findings, it also found that 92 per cent of new computers installed with non-genuine software are infected with dangerous malware.

“The study’s findings all point to the fact that uncontrolled and malicious sources of pirated software, particularly on the Internet, are being converted into effective means of spreading malware infections,” Associate Professor Biplab Sikdar from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering, who led the study, said.

Software piracy is a recognised global problem and three in five personal computers in the Asia Pacific were found to be using non-genuine software in 2016. However, using pirated software exposes users to a plethora of cyber threats.

The new study analysed 90 new laptops and computers and 165 software CDs/DVDs with pirated software. The samples were randomly purchased from vendors that are known to sell pirated software from across eight countries in Asia -- Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Viet Nam, as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Korea, and Philippines.

Researchers also examined 203 copies of pirated software downloaded from the Internet. This aligns with the trend where software is increasingly being acquired through online download channels. Each of these samples was thoroughly investigated for the presence of malware infections using seven anti-malware engines – AVG AntiVirus, BitDefender Total Security, IKARUS anti-virus and Kaspersky Anti-Virus, as well as McAfee Total Protection, Norton Security Standard and Windows Defender.

Pirated software remains a lucrative revenue stream for many cybercriminals and unscrupulous vendors. The Asia Pacific commercial market of non-genuine software hit a high of US$19 billion in 2016.

The most effective defense against malware from pirated software is to use genuine software products. Consumers and small businesses can further protect themselves from pirated, counterfeit software and malware by buying computers and laptops from reputable vendors.

In addition, enterprises and government organisations should ensure their software and operating systems are regularly updated and all security patches are applied immediately on release. — VNS

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