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Software Piracy Increasingly Leading To Malware Infection, Study Says

More than 40 percent of software on PCs is pirated, Business Software Alliance reports
Some 41 percent of software on PCs is pirated, according to a study published last week by the Business Software Alliance (BSA). But pirated software isn't just illegal -- it could be dangerous to your machines, the BSA warns.

Many users are downloading software illegally via peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and auction sites, according to the BSA report. But these download methods can lead to malware and identity theft, the report warns.

BSA uses special technology to monitor peer-to-peer networks and auction sites, issuing "takedown requests" when it finds suspicious software being offered. In the first half of 2009, BSA says it issued almost 2.4 million takedown notices related to P2P and BitTorrent file sharing, an increase of more than 200 percent compared with the same period in 2008.

Likewise, in the first half of 2009, BSA used its in-house Internet "crawler" to identify and request the removal of almost 103,000 torrent files from nine of the largest BitTorrent hosting sites worldwide. These torrent files were being used by nearly 2.9 million individuals to download software with a retail value of more than $974 million, according to the BSA.

The report draws correlations between Internet piracy and the spread of malware such as viruses, trojans, and spyware, which often exploit vulnerabilities in illegal -- and unpatched -- software. Although the correlation is not universal, geographies with high instances of software piracy also suffer from high instances of malware, the report says.

"Pirated software can be a breeding ground for malware and can also open users up to crimes such as identity theft," says Jenny Blank senior director of legal affairs at the BSA.

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