Microsoft announced it will deliver its newest Windows version for free to everyone using pirated copies of the software, according to Reuters.
Sometime this summer, Windows users from 190 countries will receive free upgrades to Windows 10, regardless whether their license is original or pirated.
The initiative was announced at the WinHEC technology conference in Shenzhen, China by Terry Myerson, Microsoft EVP of Operating Systems.
â€œWe are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10,” he said in a telephone interview with Reuters. “The plan is to ‘re-engage’ with the hundreds of millions of users of Windows in China.â€
Not all software will be equal though.
â€œAlthough non-genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license,” he said. “If a device was considered non-genuine or mislicensed prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mislicensed after the upgrade.”
Itâ€™s seems China is a piracy heaven. In 2014, a two-year global study revealed that 74 per cent of the PC software installed in 2013 had no proper licensing. And Microsoft is well aware of this issue.
A two-year investigation by Chinese police investigators and the FBI led to the dismantling of a criminal ring responsible for pirating and distributing up to $2 billion of software, including $500 million worth of counterfeit Microsoft software being made in China and distributed worldwide.
Why is unlicensed software a bad idea?
Security wise, it is a very bad deal. Vulnerabilities in pirated software can lead to loss of proprietary information caused by unauthorized access to usersâ€™ home devices or, worse, security breaches affecting large business infrastructures. More specifically, software that comes from unverified sources can be re-engineered to come bundled with backdoors used to plant malware or give attackers full control of a machine or an entire business network.
In September 2012, Microsoft discovered 91 per cent of 169 PCs from China contained malware or deliberate security vulnerabilities. The investigation, codenamed â€œOperation b70,â€ also revealed brand new computers had pirated versions of Windows. Some machines were bundled with â€œNitol,â€ a type of malware that remotely logged keystrokes and spied on users through their webcams.