Like Pirated Software? – Have I Got A Deal For You!

image We all love pirates it seems; at least in fiction. Pirates like Long John Sliver, in Treasure Island, and Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, to name just two.

It’s easy enough, I suppose, to glamorize pirates in fiction, since they all seem to possess redeeming qualities. But in the modern age, (think Somalia), pirates have no redeeming qualities – they are simply thieves.

Pirates don’t restrict their activities to sailing the bounding main however. The vast majority of present day pirates (the software pirate), sail the the currents of the Internet – stealing and pillaging.

If you’re a software pirate you’re definitely on my shit list. Because of you, part of every dollar I spend in buying software, goes to cover the cost of of your thieving behavior.

Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments in support of software theft –

How about lowering ridiculous high pricing in the first place?

Some steal it because they can’t buy it, in which case your not going to sell it to them anyway.

Users in third world countries can’t afford to buy the software even if they wanted to.

Software vendors already put the fact that there will be piracy into the price of their products. (My point exactly – you cost ME money).

Most of these argument revolve around the cost of software – always assumed to be artificially high. Frankly, I support the argument that software pricing is often outrageous. But, is that fact a justification for being a thief?

Personally, I find the cost of new cars too high. But, that doesn’t mean I’d be justified in stealing a car from my local Toyota dealership. Why is it, stealing from software developers is seen by many, as somehow different?

Recently, I happened to come across the Seventh Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study, which made the point “for every $100 worth of legitimate software sold, an additional $75 worth of unlicensed software made its way onto the market.”

I had some difficulty with the methodology used in this study, but overall, the findings are reasonable accurate.

Selected findings from this study:

Commercial value of software theft exceeds $50 billion: the commercial value of unlicensed software put into the market in 2009 totaled $51.4 billion.

Progress on piracy held through the recession: the rate of PC software piracy dropped in nearly half (49%) of the 111 economies studied, remained the same in 34% and rose in 17%.

Piracy continues to rise on a global basis: the worldwide piracy rate increased from 41% in 2008 to 43% in 2009; largely a result of exponential growth in the PC and software markets in higher piracy, fast growing markets such as Brazil, India and China.

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So here’s the deal I mentioned in the title to this article – if you search out, or use, pirated software, in almost every case you’ll get an added bonus – malware.

My good buddy Rod, an Australian security developer executive, who generously keeps me in the loop regarding Internet threats detected by his companies through their various Internet  resources, passed on the following information, this week.

Those who are into downloading pirated anti-malware programs or dubious license keys, could be in for a nasty surprise!

“HijackThis Pro 2.0.4 Portable” on WaReZ and Torrents sites is not a Trend Micro product. You don’t have to run it to get infected … merely unpacking the archive will zap you with TrojanDownloader.Pegel.BU.

Several websites offering stolen or otherwise illegally obtained “free keys” for Kaspersky, SuperAntiSpyware and ESET programs have been poisoned with malicious iFrames in the past few days (which doesn’t say much for the intelligence of the webmasters), and the trick is spreading.

You don’t need to download anything to infect yourself … depending on which site you visit, the front page will instantly zap you with TrojanDownloader.Pegel.BR, or TrojanDownloader.Pegel.BU.

In the end, there is no justifiable reason to steal software. It is piracy, and it is a CRIME. Many commercial software applications have an open source equivalent and that’s the route to choose.

Not only will you be choosing the moral path, but you will be supporting the greatest concept in software, ever – Open Source.

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35 Comments

Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Reports, Reports, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

35 responses to “Like Pirated Software? – Have I Got A Deal For You!

  1. Hi Bill,

    I’m not gong to insult anyone’s intelligence by saying I’ve never downloaded anything that’s been a bit ‘dodgy’, otherwise known as pirated software. I have no excuses, it was easy, until my laptop got infected and crashed.

    When I first started out I had no idea there was completely free stuff out there for everyone to use that was every bit as good as the massively popular windows programs we are all led to believe are the Holy Grail of computing. Not that I haven’t enjoyed using windows stuff, I like Microsoft Office. (OpenOffice is just as good).

    However, as you know, I now use Ubuntu on my computer and use only the free programs available for this OS. It is extremely liberating. All free stuff, all of it works perfectly, and no temptation to download any pirated stuff, because all the programs work and nothing crashes.

    Thanks to being educated by tech bloggers, like yourself, I now understand the implications of pirated software. It’s so easy to just ‘click’ and download but at the end of the day we should all realise, like you say, that it’s theft. Good, decent people,who would never steal a thing or ever commit a crime, will willingly download pirate software simply because it’s so easy, anonymous and in the virtual world; so they don’t put two and two together and get four.

    Nice article, Bill.

    • Hi Paul,

      One of the best comments I’ve seen in a long time. You’ve just rewritten my whole article in just a few words. You should consider precis writing as an adjunct to your poetry. 🙂

      Cyber criminals count on “Good, decent people,who would never steal a thing or ever commit a crime, will willingly download pirate software simply because it’s so easy”, doing just that. That’s a pretty cool way to get others to do the heavy lifting.

      I hope the weather is treating you well out there, and that the balance of your weekend is relaxing.

      Best,

      Bill

      PS – if you’re into poetry, then pay a visit to Paul’s site. He’s a terrific writer. http://www.paulandrewrussell.com/

      • Thanks for the compliment, Bill. I’m always looking for writing work, and recommendations like yours reinforce why I like writing.

        It’s very warm here but cloudy. Hey, it’s not snowing. 🙂

        Hope you had a good weekend too, Bill. I’ll bet it’s sunny up there. lol

        Paul

  2. Liam O' Moulain

    Hi Bill,

    Thank goodness I’ve never used pirated software. I’ve never considered the malware angle, but it sure makes sense.

    As usual, a great article.

    Liam

  3. Pingback: Articles » Blog Archive » I

  4. haydoni

    My friend works, well I’m not sure what his title is, designing interior fittings using CAD software, and uses it to “take” (amazingly lifelike) pictures of items before they are even prototyped. The combination of software costs his company over £10k a year! However I was surprised that one day his boss came in sporting a pirated copy of one of the softwares – crazy! This apparently “saved” the company £6k a year…
    I wonder how many other company bosses take this kind of risk?

    If businesses were to embrace open-source they could still pay, for support, or to insentivise specific projects (e.g. CAD improvements into Blender). If we collaborate in the long term we all win.

    • Hi Haydoni,

      “If we collaborate in the long term we all win.” Yes, indeed.

      I can’t imagine an exec taking a risk, such as you describe. Sheer insanity!

      I wonder what the cost of recovery might have been if this pirated copy had been infected. Not to mention, the lost business opportunity costs, due to a system shutdown. A totally irresponsible action.

      Thank you for expanding the conversation with this comment.

      Bill

  5. MajorityVeiw

    On the subject of downloading malware to your system, it’s not just illegal software or related websites that infect computers, this stuff is EVERYWHERE ! To eliminate this threat run all net related software through Sandboxie, then have the sandbox reside in a ram disk. Almost bullet proof. (nothing is 100% safe however)

  6. Mister Reiner

    Another thing that hackers do, is repackage the installation program to also install a Trojan. The Trojan can be completely covert or appear to be part of the actual application – i.e. separate background service/daemon, launches at start-up, launched by the task scheduler, fake update checker, etc.

    Companies should never pirate software! Disgruntled employees that are fired often report their previous employer for software piracy resulting in severe financial penalties.

    And lastly, if people want to anonymously report software piracy, they can contact the Business Software Alliance:

    http://www.bsa.org/country/Report%20Piracy.aspx

    • Hey Mister Reiner,

      I hadn’t considered that – “Disgruntled employees that are fired often report their previous employer for software piracy resulting in severe financial penalties.” A perfect example of the crows coming home to roost.

      Thanks for the link to the piracy reporting web site – a very good suggestion.

      Bill

  7. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    I’ll do what Paul did and ‘fess up, I’m not innocent in this regard, I’ve used the odd dodgy stuff in the past. Not now, and not for a long time, and amazingly I feel better about it too. I’d rather know my software is legit and safe than worry about what the piraters have done to it to make it free. Not to mention the amount of crap that comes from just visiting these piraters websites. They don’t have our best interests at heart, they are just like the crooks, interested only in themselves.

    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      Back in the days of DOS 3.11 (when computer games first came along), I don’t think I ever paid for a game. One of my brothers-in-law was an IBM guy, who had access to a copy protection cracking program that was released in a new version every week, which, I admit, I used frequently. So, yes, I definitely was a bad boy. But hey, that was 25 years ago. I’ve smartened up a little bit since then.

      You’re right, hacking, cracking, and Key Gem sites are definitely among the most dangerous on the Net. As Mr. Reiner pointed out earlier, malware can be dropped into an application in such a way that it can be virtually impossible to find. I once used a pirated copy of XP for malware identification practice, and it took me over a week to find all the bad stuff. And, at the end of the day, I wasn’t really convinced I’d found it all.

      Best,

      Bill

  8. Danielx64

    Adding my 2 words, one of my friend got Adobe CS5 with crack, and he is having more problems than me, because quite frankly I went out and got the software.

    Sometime people like me who do the right thing get picked on because, you guess it they do the right thing and buy it.

    Having said that, it the same with forum software as well. IP.board has a phone home feature in it, hackers remove it and put a iframe virus in it, so people who visit your forum also get a virus as well.

    Not only your putting yourself at risk, but others as well.

    Daniel

  9. dar

    re-Pirates of Somalia
    g’day All,
    -funny,we never saw the wherefore&why in the american/cdn rags, so here ya go:
    5 January 2009
    Johann Hari: You are being lied to about pirates
    Some are clearly just gangsters. But others are trying to stop illegal dumping and trawling
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-you-are-being-lied-to-about-pirates-1225817.html
    ‘In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
    Yes: nuclear waste.
    As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness,…At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood…This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia…’
    cheers

  10. mark

    Hi Bill,
    The old saying “you get what you pay for”, more than runs true. Frankly you get a hell of a lot you didn’t pay for or want with free software. I tested a few items that were popular off Pirate Bay on a computer I was willing to sacrifice in the name of security research of my own. I downloaded and ran a number of free programs and their Keygens, which often contain the payload. About half these downloads contained some kind of Trojans, a few were real winners with multiple infections some which were very hard to get rid of. Popular software titles like Photoshop CS5 or 4 were very susceptible, as was Windows 7 or Office 2010.
    I was surprised to see a number of these came up clean, and either had very sophisticated malware or they were legit (so to speak).
    I was also impressed with Comodo antivirus and its sandboxing feature which had high detection and prevention rates.
    Cheers
    Mark

    • Hey Mark,

      LOL! “Frankly you get a hell of a lot you didn’t pay for or want with free software.” Oh yeah!

      Good to hear that Comodo performed well – I’ll keep that in mind.

      As usual, an instructive comment. Thanks.

      Best,

      Bill

  11. bokawel

    i must admit i was one of those but i changed my ways due to the same security measures.

    if your friends asked you to install ms office or any other software but they won’t pay for it then don’t. even if you wanted to do this as a favour for them and they really need it, don’t! you will only get yourself into trouble and might get a slapping in the future.

    instead install open source software alternatives such as OpenOffice for MS Office, GIMP for Photoshop etc.. i am sure everyone knows this already. you don’t need to be a “pirate” to find “treasures” in open source software.

    • Hi Bokawel,

      It seems we’ve all taken a shot at playing the pirate “game”.

      Good advice on the open source solution – “you don’t need to be a “pirate” to find “treasures” in open source software.”

      Bill

  12. Siam

    I’m of the opinion that there is more than enough open-source freeware to cover most anyone’s needs, so why bother risking your comp for risky pirate software? Having said that though, I live in a part of the world where if you buy a computer, it’s generally loaded with pirated software. Last year when I bought a new notebook, I did a scan as soon as I got it and found a couple of nasty surprises. C’est la vie. That’s life in poor countries.

    • Hey Siam,

      I’m fascinated by the part of the world you’re in. I’m very curious as to what technologies are available, who uses the technology, and whether the costs involved prohibit broad scale adaptation.

      You have a terrific writing style, and if you would consider writing a guest article on your Internet experiences, I’d be very happy to post it. Here in North America, we often believe the rest of the world mirrors our experiences, which is rarely the case.

      Best,

      Bill

  13. Siam

    Hi Bill. Thanks for your interest. IT and the related infrastructure are slowly rolling out across the country. It’s really been a tyranny of distance issue. Poor country, poor roads, poor transport and electricity infrastructures, etc. However, access to the internet, for example, is much better now than it was four or five years ago. Granted, the connections do drop out a lot. But we’re getting there. But all in all, the people here are in love with IT. For the first time, people are able to access the world. And that’s a huge step forward. If I get the time, I will do up an article for you. Bit stretched at present, but I’ll put it on a list of to-dos. Thanks very much for the offer. And you’re right, people in the West forget that there is whole other world out there where these things are just not taken for granted.

    Thanks again, Bill.

    • Hi Siam,

      I can well understand how the lack of infrastructure impacts access.

      It’s very cool to hear how the populace has taken to the idea that the world is now within their reach. It makes me just a little bit more hopeful for our future.

      Thank you for considering an article. The offer will always be open – so, whenever.

      Best,

      Bill

  14. John Bent

    Hi Bill

    Of course it’s not just software but music as well. Again the excuse is that CDs are overpriced and, again, it is easy to rip a friend’s CD or DVD but IT IS THEFT. It’s easy to take stuff from a supermarket and they make big profits but there is more chance of being caught and I think that’s where the difference lies. Some people who do not think twice about pirating on line would not dream of shoplifting because the perception is different.

    Unfortunately there is no simple answer as it’s difficult to police the pirates. Let’s hope they continue to infect the bootlegged stuff as this may act as a deterrent.

    Great thought-provoking article as always.

    Kind regards

    John

    • Hi John,

      You’re right. It’s interesting how we quantify theft. Steal a dollars worth of meat from the supermarket, and the social stigma attached to such an act, will be overwhelming. Illegally copy a DVD movie, and you’re actually a hero to your friends. They’ll beg you to show them how they too can steal copyrighted content.

      Unfortunately, we live in a world of situational ethics, where the definition of theft is highly variable.

      Best,

      Bill

  15. Ranjan

    Hey Bill,
    A very nice write-up on piracy problem.
    I too had used these crack stuffs mostly for gaming purposes and I had to pay the price for it too… Sometimes sality, sometimes this, that etc etc.. Had to do a clean install couple of times.. But that’s the story of another time.. Now, i’m a changed person. Thanks to guys like you who brought this change..
    There’s no point in using cracks which are often malicious and harm you as well as others too.. There are freeware to almost every commercial app, and some are even better than the commercial ones..
    And yet, people die for cracks.. Phew!
    “If you want to use a commercial software, use it legally, else move to freeware”– My motto.
    “If you cant afford it, there are many giveaways, promos held frequently for commercial apps, better try your luck there. It doesn’t hurt to give a try”

    • Thanks Ranjan.

      I agree completely with your comment and your advice, especially the giveaways and promos. And, you’re right, games seem to be particularly a bad choice. Cracked games are almost certain to be infected.

      Bill