Microsoft Corp. is consolidating its digital crimes and software piracy teams into a single Cybercrime Center to confront new threats from Web criminals with bolder initiatives, Dow Jones Business News reports.

Microsoft has been targeted by Internet thieves for a generation – Bootleg software siphons sales away from Microsoft Office, and malware takes advantage of the Windows operating system to gain access to consumer information. Now, research shows that counterfeit software and malware are arriving together on personal computers in worldwide emerging markets, creating a larger pool of victims for criminal enterprises, the article says.

The new center consolidates the company’s digital crimes and Internet piracy units into one program, so Microsoft can coordinate investigations with governments and law enforcement agencies. A staff of 30 will work there with 70 other Microsoft investigators worldwide.

A study to be released Wednesday by IDC concludes that about one-third of software installed on PCs worldwide in 2011 was counterfeit, and at least 20 percent of Microsoft Office software installed by businesses was counterfeit as well, Dow Jones reports.

There was a one-in-three chance that the counterfeit software was infected with malware.

By 2020, IDC estimates that the number of computers worldwide will grow 1.5 times – plus mobile devices – and that the malware step will grow in kind. The expanding market would make online crime one of the safest criminal environments in which to operate, the study concludes.