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Vista Launch: Cracked Vista copies hide malware

Security expert warns that half the files on the internet claiming to be new Microsoft OS are in fact trojans.

People searching the internet for pirated copies of Microsoft's new operating system Vista should avoid downloading illegal cracks for the software, a security expert warned.

Around half of all download claiming to be copies of Microsoft's new operating system Vista are actually malware according to John Safa, security expert and chief architect at firewall security company DriveSentry.

The new operating system sees its consumer launch next week but already chat forums, discussion boards and peer-to-peer networks have been bombarded with messages advertising free "cracked" copies of the software.

Safa said that malware writers are using the promise of free software to lure unsuspecting users to download the trojan. The victim then finds that the trojan encrypts their data and a ransom note is displayed threatening to destroy the data unless the victim pays up.

"Approximately 50 per cent of the Vista cracks we tested from popular file sharing tools are really trojan horses," said Safa. "Hackers are attaching malicious programs to original cracks and sending the mutated versions back into cyberspace."

He said that anyone who downloads and runs one of these infected cracks will also unlock the malicious program, which could cause irreversible damage to their PCs or data.

Safa said that by locking down Vista with activation software has "effectively issued an open invitation to the hacking community to prove it wrong".

"There's real money to be lost in this high stakes game, and the rules have completely changed," he said. "Today's malware threat has evolved into a destructive force that outpaces even the best anti-virus signatures, leaving consumers' personal data completely exposed to zero-day attacks"

He said people need to start approaching security at the data level and isolate malware "before it can wreak havoc on their PCs."

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