Counterfeit software: What's the risk?

Jul 27, 2011 4:33pm

By John Browne, VP Sales & Marketing of Wibu-Systems USA

Reputable software publishers want you to use their software and recommend it to other people. This is why they spend money creating a quality product with good technical support.

Software counterfeiters have entirely different motives. They are doing something illegal, and you can’t trust them. Often, they will collect your personal details and sell them on, or try to sell you bogus products. The last thing they care about is customer satisfaction; instead, they make money by ripping you off.

When you use counterfeit software, you have no idea what you are actually using, but the chances are that it isn’t good. According to a study by IDC in 2006, 25% of counterfeit software includes malicious code.

Once the software is installed, the counterfeiter has unrestricted access to your computer. They may add it to a botnet, a collection of remotely-controlled computers that can number in the millions. Botnets are used to attack websites and to send spam, and are often sold to other criminals for profit. Or, the counterfeiter may capture your credit card and banking information, and then bleed you dry.

No support
Even if your counterfeit software is free from malware, it isn’t supported. When things go wrong, you can’t pick up the phone and call the publisher. You have to fix it yourself, which isn’t always possible, and you could lose critical data.

Do you really want to put your business at risk to save a small amount of money? If you do get stuck, you will have to buy a legitimate copy of the software to get support anyway.

Business impact
Your business depends on software and, if it fails, the impact can be devastating. Imagine what would happen if you couldn’t operate for several days, or if you lost your customer database. It’s unthinkable.

Counterfeit software greatly increases that risk. According to the Harrison Group, businesses that use counterfeit software are 75% more likely to lose data or suffer multi-day software failures, when compared to properly licensed businesses.

It’s illegal
When you use counterfeit software, you are breaking the law. You can be charged with theft, and the software publisher can sue you in civil court. Even if you don’t know your software is counterfeit, you are still guilty in most countries, so it pays to check.

Counterfeit software is dangerous, illegal and can damage your business. It’s just not worth the risk.