Drug Cartels Profiting from Malware and Pirated Software

Friday, February 04, 2011



David Finn, associate general counsel at Microsoft, warns of the growing prevalence of malware-laden pirated software being produced by international criminal syndicates and drug cartels.

Finn cites evidence that these criminal organizations are finding software piracy to be a lucrative addition to other revenue streams such as drug trafficking.

One Mexican cartel is thought to make as much as $2.2 million dollars per day distributing pirated software at over 180 different retail outlets. That is big business.

“An important theme that resonated among the international groups is the number of organized criminal gangs that rely on the profits gleaned from pirated software to fund other crimes. Sophisticated criminal syndicates and drug cartels are building large scale counterfeiting operations and selling illegal software to consumers. These illegal enterprises have generated astronomical profits that the gangs funnel toward violent crimes such as drug trafficking, arms and weapons trafficking, kidnapping and extortion," Finn writes.

The problem goes far beyond losses for the companies whose intellectual property and potential profits are being siphoned off by these criminal enterprises - consumers are at risk too.

There is a high risk that pirated software may contain malicious code designed to steal confidential information or work to enslave a victim's computer for use in criminal botnet operation.

The malware can also be designed to spread to the victim's contacts, threatening security and privacy far beyond the initial purchaser of the counterfeit application.

The problem is international in nature, and Finn advocates a multi-national effort by both the public and private sectors to combat the growing problem.

“Given the global worldwide impact of the issue, and the fact that it touches so many lives, it’s crucial that organizations, governments, and businesses collaborate on a regular basis to share resources, build awareness, and generate new ideas in our effort to reduce piracy," Finn recommends.

Source:  http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_on_the_issues/archive/2011/02/03/software-piracy-the-risks-are-greater-than-ever.aspx

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