?The Dangerous World of Counterfeit and Pirated Software – How Pirated Software Can Compromise the Cybersecurity of Consumers, Enterprises, and Nations … and the Resultant Costs in Time and Money? is the title of a new IDC white paper sponsored by Microsoft. It is basically a study where IDC surveyed 1,104 general consumers, 973 business users and 268 CIO/IT managers from ten countries (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and a general extension of the study conducted in 2006. IDC investigated how prevalent is the malicious code in pirated/counterfeit software, and how many resources are exhausted for that reason.

The study considers that ?42% of all PC software packages installed in the world in 2011 were pirated,? according to BSA | The Software Alliance, and IDC estimates that ?at least 80% of pirated software is counterfeit ? so at least a third of PC software is counterfeit.? According to the research, IDC estimates that, ?the direct costs to enterprises from dealing with malware from counterfeit software will hit $114 billion this year,? and that the ?potential losses from data breaches could reach nearly $350 billion.? To make things worse, it is not only the enterprises that suffer, it is the general consumer, where 1.5 billion hours will be gone to waste while dealing with malware coming from counterfeit software. IDC points out that ?the dangers from counterfeit software are real. For consumers, it is not just lost time and money to fix the problem but also the risk of lost data and identity theft.?

With that said, study does claim that there are regional variations ? but even North America, ?despite having the lowest piracy rate of the regions,? still has ?the second highest risk posture,? simply due to the size of the market ? and enterprises are hit with more of the financial toll.

Worth noting again is that the IDC performed a similar (though, more limited, in their own wording) study back in 2006. Interestingly enough, at that point in time a quarter of Web sites tried to infect computers in some way or another, and that has slipped to 14% in this fresh study. Internet browsers were not only more vulnerable to attacks, but search engines were pretty horrible at detecting malicious or infectious sites. Aside from the Internet, one third of all optical media tested in 2006 had vulnerabilities or were infected, and that slipped as well to today?s 14 percent.

The intensified distribution of pirated content was, among other things, driven by the rapid development of the internet infrastructure and sheer number of computers accessing it ? as broadband connections have improved and ?the amount of PCs accessing the internet has grown by a factor of 2.2?

Pirated content is still available on the streets as well ? and it got better, more functional and cleaner, though it is more difficult to find, notes the IDC in the study. To conclude the comparison, IDC points out that, ?by all accounts, the threats delivered via malware are worse today than in 2006: more criminal organizations involved, more money and data theft, and more sophisticated attacks and fraud.?

Over the next period of time (7 years, to be exact), ?the installed base of PCs will grow by a factor of less than 1.5?, and mobile devices will take the dominance ? but at a cost, as they ?may be even harder to manage and keep secure in enterprise settings than PCs.? The standard practices of keeping computers and data safe are still valid for both general consumers and enterprises ? buying the equipment and software from reliable and trusted sources, and registering/activating the software purchased. Hit the source link for the entire study (29 pages) in .pdf format.