Microsoft has claimed that it has evidence showing that terrorists and drugs cartels are increasingly involved in the software piracy market.
Diana Piquette, anti-piracy manager at Microsoft Canada, maintained that evidence has been discovered linking the production of counterfeit software and the drug cartels of Columbia.
There are also indications, she said, that terrorist elements in Ireland and the Middle East are using piracy as a way to fund parts of their activities.
"Organised crime is getting more and more involved in high-quality counterfeit software," she said. "It's less risky than dealing with drugs, the penalties are less and the profits are huge."
According to Piquette, an arrested software counterfeiter in Paraguay is alleged to be a financier of terrorist camps in the Middle East.
The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition has reported that paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland funded terrorist activities through the sale of a variety of counterfeit products.
Microsoft's campaign against criminal counterfeiting has included legal action in 22 countries including Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Poland, Singapore, the UK and the US.
Piquette pointed out that there has been a notable shift in production from developed markets to second and third world countries, specifically Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
She claimed that in the past year, nearly five million units of counterfeit Microsoft software and hardware were seized worldwide, with an estimated retail value of more than $1.7bn.
Security experts agreed that software counterfeiting has been fuelled by the internet, organised crime and third world corruption. Raids and criminal cases are confirming ties to Chinese gangs, the Italian and Russian mafias, the IRA and Middle Eastern terrorists.
Brent Renouf, counterfeit investigator at Microsoft Canada and ex-Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, said: "The explosive growth of internet users has spawned an equally explosive growth of internet abusers.
"Cyber-savvy criminals increasingly use the speed and anonymity of the internet to sell and distribute counterfeit software, music and videos worldwide."
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