Mar 28 2014

The Dangers (and Costs) of Pirated Software

Even if the software is free, there’s always a price to pay.

It’s a good time to be a pirate. Not since the days of Captain Kidd and Black Bart has it been so lucrative to be a freebooter. But the domain to pillage and plunder has shifted from the Seven Seas to the Internet. Gold doubloons have given way to software discs and downloads, as software piracy has grown into a profitable enterprise.

In 2013, IDC released a white paper titled The Dangerous World of Counterfeit and Pirated Software. The white paper, sponsored by Microsoft, presents findings about the prevalence of malicious code (such as viruses, Trojan horses, keystroke-capturing software and spyware) in pirated software and on the websites and peer-to-peer networks where such bogus ware is shared and sold. It also quantifies the cost in time and money for dealing with the effects of malware found in pirated software.

Among the more interesting findings:

  • 33 percent of all PC software in the world is counterfeit.

  • 78 percent of downloaded counterfeit software exposes users to unwanted tracking cookies and spyware.

  • 36 percent of downloaded counterfeit software includes Trojans or other malicious adware.

  • 20 percent of counterfeit CDs and DVDs (those that were actually installable) infect the host PC with Trojans and other malicious malware.

  • 15 percent of all software coming through normal delivery channels is improperly licensed or infects host PCs with malware.

All told, IDC estimated that the direct costs to enterprises for dealing with malware from counterfeit software will hit $114 billion in 2013. Potential losses tied to data breaches associated with counterfeit software were estimated at nearly $350 billion.