General computer maintenance

Dangers of using pirated software

Dangers of using pirated software

Author: Ioana Bistriceanu

As software prices increase, many users turn to installing bootleg copies, or pirated ones. We’ll tell you what dangers you may come upon if you’re using pirated copies.

The first risk that you run is infecting your PC. The crack might actually be a poorly disguised malware. I know that some of you think that’s just an Antivirus False Positive, but that’s not 100% true. We all know what damage malware does – slowing your PC down, sending out your information, bringing in friends, damaging your files and so on. This includes credit card and bank account numbers, passwords and address books, all of which can be immediately exploited by identity thieves.

The second risk is the program not actually working. Most software companies have implemented a way of checking the registration – the program might work for a while, but receive an update at some point in time which renders it unusable unless you make a purchase.

Say you’ve managed to disable the Automatic Update feature of the software in question. This comes with a downside, though: no vulnerability patches for you, as the developers often push them through a product update.

If you’re considering installing a bootleg copy of Windows, you should know that, after running some tests on 6 different copies, the following issues were found: 2 of the copies had malware embedded, and all of them had Windows Update disabled and the Windows Firewall rules changed. It might not seem much, but keep in mind that Microsoft fixes vulnerabilities through Windows Updates, and the Windows Firewall can act as a malware repellent.

I’ll now leave you with the words of someone who tried selling a counterfeit copy of a program:

In August 2013 I purchased on eBay a used copy of a language learning software program for $150. I never used or installed it since, in the meantime, I had purchased a new copy of the latest version on Amazon.

A couple of months ago, I decided to sell the unused old version back on eBay. Two days later the item was pulled from eBay because it was counterfeit, and a lawyer from the software company called me and asked me to return the software and pay punitive damages of $800.

I argued that I had no idea that the software was counterfeit. He said it does not matter; selling counterfeit software, even unknowingly, is against the law.

I understand the reasoning, but it seems harsh to punish this way a first-time offender with no malicious intent. I might have been naïve, but certainly not evil. Yet he would not let me off with a warning and pursued the punitive settlement.