MANILA - Microsoft Corp on Monday announced the results of a study which it said showed serious threats of malware found on brand new personal computers bought in Thailand and four neighbouring countries.
A computer expert inspects Windows disks for malware. (Reuters photo)
The problem, said Keshav Dhakad of Microsoft, is piracy - specifically, pirated editions of Windows put on the PCs just before they were sold, according to a report on the study at Rappler.com, a Philippines new media site run by the former CNN correspondent Maria Ressa.
Mr Dhakad, Microsoft's Regional Director for Intellectual Property of Microsoft Asia Pacific and Japan, said the company sampled 216 laptops and 66 DVDs of pirated Microsoft Windows last December. The computers were from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam.
Some 147 of the laptops and 49 of the Windows installation DVDs were infected with malware at the time of purchase.
The PCs included top-line, branded models. By "malware", Microsoft said it meant "malicious software" across the board, including viruses, trojans, keyloggers and more.
"Many people assume that buying a name-brand PC is all that’s required to guarantee a good and safe computing experience," said Mr Keshav.
Wrong. "If a consumer can’t verify that the computer they purchased was shipped with a pre-installed, genuine copy of Windows, their risk of exposure to viruses and spyware ... increases exponentially."
The new PCs in the Microsoft report were already altered by the malware in the pirated Windows.
Microsoft said 97 per cent of the sampled computers had Windows Firewall rules changed, and 79 per cent had Windows Update disabled.
The Microsoft study did not reveal all testing methods or full results. For example, many PC sellers install excellent third-part firewall software considered superior to the Windows brand, and many users disable Windows Update by choice.
Still, Microsoft's tests revealed troubling results.
The company said it found 1,131 unique strains of malware and virus infections in the sample, including the Zeus Trojan, which uses keyloggers to steal data and identities from affected users.
Mr Dhakad warned it may be wrong to "think there are great deals to be had by looking the other way" in buying important software.
"The hidden cost of pirated software is significant," he said.