TORONTO -- Microsoft is well known for its efforts in fighting software piracy. Yet countless millions of PCs worldwide run Microsoft software that isn't genuine and is in fact pirated.

Should those users get the same protections that genuine Microsoft users get, for the better good of the Internet ecosystem as a whole? If one Microsoft executive gets her way that may well happen.

Rebecca Norlander, general manager of the Security Technology Unit at Microsoft, told attendees of the Infosecurity Canada conference here that Windows Defender, Microsoft's anti-spyware product, is one of the most popular downloads in Microsoft's history at more than 28 million.

That number, however, is eclipsed by the 3.2 billion user executions of the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool over the last seven months, which have resulted in 18.2 million virus disinfections.

Though Windows Defender has been quite successful so far, the number of its potential users could increase if Microsoft lets all Windows users actually download and use it.

Windows Defender is only available to Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA)-validated users who prove their copies of Windows are the real thing.

A member of the audience said that pirated versions of Windows can still openly get security updates from Microsoft, so why not let pirate Windows users get Defender as well.

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