Purchasing and using pirated software may carry more risks than it may be apparent on the surface. According to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), the risks go much deeper.

Microsoft has a substantial organization in place to protect the company from software piracy, but there is no denying that piracy and anti-piracy efforts will always remain entangled in a cat-and-mouse chase as long as both sides offer economic benefits. David Flynn, the company's associate general counsel in the anti-piracy department, recently reported from Microsoft's participation in the 6th Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy and stressed that the economics of pirated software reach further than the simple use of a cheaper version of a software product.

He referred to a New York Times article that highlighted organized crime in Mexico, which uses a pirated software distribution business to support drug, bribery, and kidnapping crimes as a low-risk, high-profit activity. Mexico's attorney general estimates pirated software to bring in $2.2 million every day for just one group of the organized crime in Mexico. The group controlled 180,000 points of sale in stores, markets, and kiosks throughout Mexico.

"Sophisticated criminal syndicates and drug cartels are building large-scale counterfeiting operations and selling illegal software to consumers," Flynn wrote. "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."

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