Windows 2000 hasn't even been
officially released, but that hasn't stopped software pirates
from ripping off Microsoft Corp.'s newest operating system.
The world's leading software company said on Thursday it has
been busily stamping out Web sites offering illicit copies of
the program, which took $1 billion and three years for
Microsoft to develop.
To combat the piracy problem, made easier by the Internet ,
Microsoft has assembled an arsenal of new weapons, including a
virtual bloodhound to sniff out illegal copies lurking on the
Web, holographic CD-ROMs and authenticity certificates that are
harder to counterfeit than a $100 dollar bill.
"What we are trying to do is use technology even more to
combat software piracy," Anne Murphy, an anti-piracy attorney
for the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
With illegal versions of software making up one in four
programs installed on U.S. computers, and with organized crime
bankrolling sophisticated counterfeiting operations, Microsoft
is determined to protect its latest treasure.
Windows 2000, the next-generation business operating system
that will run servers and corporate systems, is to be formally
unveiled by Microsoft co-founder and chairman, Bill Gates, next
Thursday at a gala event in San Francisco.
But copies of Windows 2000 were sent to computer makers for
installation on new computers last December, and machines
carrying it have quietly shipped for several weeks.
Beta, or test versions, were also released to hundreds of
thousands of customers months ago.
Using a new program that works full-time at ferreting out
illegal copies of Windows 2000 on the Web, Microsoft in January
alone uncovered more than 100 Web sites posting the program
for download, Murphy said.
"It searches out those downloads and the following day our
people review the results of the search, and if it looks like
there's a serious problem, then we notify in rapid time the
Internet service provider," Murphy said.
It was unclear how many copies of Windows 2000 had been
downloaded illegally or how much money Microsoft had lost from
"We really haven't quantified that," Murphy said of losses
from Windows 2000 piracy. The software's price tag ranges from
$149 for a desktop upgrade to $3,999 for the Advanced Server
But Murphy likened Internet piracy to bacteria breeding in
ideal conditions, saying, "In terms of what happens when it's
downloaded, it's kind of like a petri dish it just multiplies
To help prevent copying of physical CD-ROMs a lucrative
business for professional pirates who can stamp disks and print
high-quality shrink-wrapped boxes Microsoft has two tricks up
One is a complex "edge-to-edge" hologram that is etched
across the entire face of a CD and features the Windows logo,
the name of the software version, and how the disk was sold.
Also, Windows 2000 will ship with verification badges using
a copper holographic thread, unique identification numbers, and
a company logo that shimmers gold and silver in the light.
"It has more security features than any currency in the
world," Murphy said.
Calling the hologram a "quantum leap" in anti-piracy
technology, Murphy said Microsoft is confident the technique is
sophisticated enough to foil even the most determined pirates,
for a while anyway.
"This throws a major roadblock in front of them," Murphy
said. "I'm sure they'll come up with their best shot, but I'm
sure that the quality of this hologram will be something that
the consumer can see."