Last Updated on October 1, 2010 by Dave Farquhar
I had my first brush today with counterfeit software. I guess I’m not surprised that people fall for it (or maybe some don’t care), but if you know what you’re looking for, it’s possible not to get suckered.The software was presented as OEM software. That’s all well and good, and there’s nothing illegal about buying OEM software even without a hardware purchase. The vendor certainly doesn’t like it, but once they have their money they have very little control over what future distributors do with their software.
The problem with this software was that it just didn’t look right. The seller claimed his supplier repackaged the OEM software in paper sleeves. That’s fine, but Windows CDs aren’t printed in color. They have a hologram on them. These discs appeared to have a scanned image printed on them with an inkjet printer. They may have even been stick-on labels, rather than printable discs, because some of the discs still had perforated centers on them.
He also tried to sell me some Adobe Master Suite CS3 and CS4 discs. I’d never heard of Adobe selling OEM versions of its master suite, but I humored him. I half expected the discs all to have the same license key printed on the sleeve, but they did have unique keys. When I questioned the discs’ authenticity, he just said nobody who’s bought from him in the past year has complained about not being able to use the software. He didn’t deny they were counterfeits, but he also didn’t try to claim they were anything but.
Having seen authentic Adobe CDs, these didn’t look right either. Like the fake Microsoft discs, the artwork appeared to be printed on an inkjet printer of some sort. It was fuzzy. The styling was also very different from what I’m used to seeing from Adobe. There’s a certain minimal, elegant look that Adobe goes for in its designs, and the busy surface of these discs just didn’t look like that at all.
I didn’t open the sleeves and probably wouldn’t have been allowed to do so, but I’m pretty confident that opening them would have revealed the discs were burned, rather than commercially pressed.
I handed all of the discs back and kept my money. The prices on the Microsoft software weren’t much lower than what I could get it for from legitimate sources. The Adobe software was considerably cheaper, but I don’t want pirated software, and I certainly don’t want to pay a lot of money for pirated software. I’ll save that money for a used, legitimate copy of an older version instead.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.