Keygens have become the number one threat – Microsoft

As per the latest report from Microsoft Security Center, Keygens have become the number one threat reported by users, especially in newer versions like Windows 8 & Windows 7. This research is done on the basis of reports received from users of Microsoft anti-malware products. According to the report, 76% of users that downloaded Keygen or software cracks were also exposed to other, more dangerous malware.

What are Keygens

Keygens are basically generators of a product or license keys, which are necessary to activate a software application. Keygens or Cracks can be downloaded from various websites with which users can bypass the product registration. Most such website are dedicated to software piracy. These are the websites where Keygen software distributions may be infected with malware by third-parties.

Keygens are not hazardous on their own. However, malware authors contaminate the sources by pretending their deceptive downloads as Keygens. These authors can also include the ‘real’ Keygens into the deceptive downloads and into other malware that spread their malicious downloads. As a result, users who report of having their computers affected with Keygens are often susceptible to threats from additional malware infections. Microsoft’s research indicates that some of these additional threats can also trick users to pay for the Keygens, which are actually distributed for free from trusted sources.

Due to such characteristics, Keygens have become the number one threat to systems running Windows 8 and Windows 7. This malware may have any number of interfaces, depending on the serial number or keys they are generating.

Following are the detection trends for a number of notable and potentially unwanted software families in 2012.

News 1_Keygens have become the number one threat – Microsoft_Image 1

According to the Microsoft, Keygens are responsible for larger number of threats that affect Windows 7 and Windows 8. This seems plausible as many pirate would want licenses for the latest versions of any software or operating system version. The figures mentioned below exhibit the rank of each malware that is harmful to different Windows OS.

News 1_Keygens have become the number one threat – Microsoft_Image 2

Microsoft suggests few easy-to-follow steps to prevent your computer from malware and infections.

  • Enable a firewall on your computer
  • Get the latest computer updates for all your installed software
  • Use up-to-date antivirus software
  • Limit user privileges on the computer
  • Use caution when opening attachments and accepting file transfers
  • Use caution when clicking on links to webpages
  • Avoid downloading pirated software
  • Protect yourself against social engineering attacks
  • Use strong passwords

You can read more at Tips to secure Windows.

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Ankit Gupta is a writer by profession and has more than 7 years of global writing experience on technology and other areas. He follows technological developments and likes to write about Windows & IT security. He has a deep liking for wild life and has written a book on Top Tiger Parks of India.


  1. Ed

    Well, naturally they are going to call it a threat because they do not want people using them. Seven out of the ten items listed in the graphic above will not harm your system and would be a false positive, even though most AV venders would like to tell you different.
    It’s just more propaganda to make people scared to use a keygen. Now I am NOT saying that ALL kegens are safe to use, it all depends who and where you are getting them from. If you get them from a well known trustable source a keygen will pose no threat whatsoever to your system.

  2. Gregg L. DesElms

    From the article: Keygens are not hazardous on their own.

    MY RESPONSE: Au contraire, mon ami! The compiled code of the keygen executable (.exe file) is quite often intentionally malware infected; and quite often, even when it’s not, it was written using the same IDE/compiler/linker that malware authors use, and so code written/compiled and linked with it will bear the very same signature as does malware, and so anti-malware will flag it as infected, even if it’s not.

    But there’s a far bigger problem with keygens… a problem for legitimate owners of Microsoft products, to wit: If some keygen out there in the universe just happens to generate the very same key that is on a label on the outside of the CD case of a legitimate Microsoft product; and if said Keygen-generated code happens to get registred with Microsoft before the legitimate product is sold, then the person who bought the legitimate product ends-up trying to register its key with Microsoft after that same key has already been registered by a fraudster…

    …and it ends-up being the legitimate product owner who has to fast-talk Microsoft into basically issuing him/her a new key (which we ALSO hope hasnn’t already inadvertently been keygen-generated by someone out there) in order to make the product for which s/he paid finally actually work. If Microsoft happens not to believe him/her (which, ultimately, may be remedied by his/her forwarding to Microsoft a scan of his/her CD case with the key on it, as well as a copy of his/her receipt from legitimately purchasing it), then s/he must go through a lot of time-consuming and irritating steps to finally get Microsoft to relent.

    Makers and users of keygens shouldn’t have the power to DO that to people! That, alone, should be a crime.

    Or so it is MY two cents worth, in any case…

    …which, it’s worthy of note, my ex-wife always used to say was pretty much ALL it was ever worth. [grin]

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  3. Gregg L. DesElms


    Noticeably (and I dare say conveniently) missing from your posit is the more basic and fundamental question of rightness vs wrongness. Use of a keygen is wrong. Period. It matters not if it can be gotten away with. Wrong is wrong, and no amount of wishing on what at least APPEARS to be your part will change that.

    Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one’s watching. Parsing the issues you’ve parsed in that to which I’m here responding — especially given the biting irony of that trustworthiness plays any role in it — is laughable in its so pathetically missing the larger and more important point that keygens are just plain wrong; and so all other points regarding them (at least of the sort that you’re making) are moot.

    If you want it essentially free, then do it the honorable way and go with open-source (or, of course, freeware). If you want what costs money, then PAY the money. Negotiate for the lowest price, of course; or even talk the selling into donating or bartering it… all of those things are honorable.

    Using a keygen is not. And so, then, all that is both explicit and implicit in your “it’s just more propaganda to make people scared to use a keygen” is, in both either case, and in fact, ultimately shameful.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

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