Beware of Counterfeit Software

By some estimates, over 40% of the software used in business settings in the United States is illegally copied or "pirated." Many businesses and users in the US will use copies of software for which they are not licensed. In some countries, well over 95% of the software in use is pirated. Software pirates include casual, amateur copiers of software as well as those who sell and those who buy professionally pirated software products.

 

In most Western countries, the number of users who make casual copies of software in violation of their license agreements greatly exceeds those who use the products of professional pirates. At manifold.net we feel an important part of keeping prices down is to provide a level playing field so that those customers who play by the rules do not end up subsidizing those who cheat. Using serial numbers and activation effectively eliminates casual cheating, the bulk of piracy in most Western countries. We feel that strong criminal sanctions by government authorities will make trafficking in professionally pirated products too risky for most users in industrialized countries.

 

In some countries virtually all of the software products that are sold are professionally pirated products that are ripped off on a massive, industrial level. It is always possible that professional pirates may circumvent the serial number and activation mechanisms in Manifold System. However, the technical effort to do so is very substantial and immediately marks any vendor or possessor of such a pirated form of Manifold System as a blatant lawbreaker.

 

Governments in countries where piracy is rampant have begun to realize that widespread piracy prevents the development of an indigenous software infrastructure within their countries. No one will create software for a market where software is universally ripped off. As a result, those governments have begun cracking down on software pirates.

 

All genuine Manifold System software from Release 5.00 onward requires a serial number and activation for permanent installation. If you have been supplied with Manifold System 5.00 or a more recent edition that does not require a serial number and activation, you may have been the victim of a counterfeiter. Contact sales@manifold.net to find out if the license offered to you is a valid license.

 

Resist the temptation to purchase or to install counterfeit software. When visiting countries in which counterfeit software is openly sold it is tempting to purchase a CD for a few dollars that contains thousands of dollars of software packages. However, when returning through Customs with pirated software you risk severe legal consequences if you are caught, including possible detention, conviction and the life-long stigma of a felony criminal record.

 

Customs officers know to examine hard disks and are very good at finding counterfeit software goods when people return from countries where such goods are sold. Remember, Customs officers look tens of thousands of people in the eye and do searches for hours every day of their work week for years on end so they have much more experience detecting a possible problem than the novice smuggler has at concealing it. You may think you have the iron nerves required to bluff your way past an experienced Customs officer, but when you face that officer across an examination table and realize that he or she can strip search you or otherwise detain you it is too late to realize the stakes are not worth the risk.

 

Criminal penalties are often much higher than the amateur smuggler realizes. For example, when smuggling a counterfeit CD into the US it is very easy for the dollar value of the ripped-off software on the CD to total many thousands of dollars, which escalates the offense into the range of a serious felony. Even if extended jail time is avoided upon conviction, in the US people with a felony conviction lose many rights for life, including the right to vote, the right to own firearms and even the right to work at many jobs or professions. That is true whether you are caught in Customs or caught when pirated software, unknown to you, calls down authorities within your own country.

 

If offered counterfeit software within your own country or via the Internet, consider that counterfeit editions of popular software packages may include viruses or Trojan Horse "back door" programs that later allow entry into your computer system. Such programs can be used to automatically harvest (via network connections) information from any computer system running the Trojan Horse. This is a classic way to take over machines to steal credit card information or identity or to use your machine to perpetrate credit card theft or to generate spam. Criminals can use Trojan Horse programs to use your machine to make purchases on their behalf using stolen credit cards. When the crime is discovered, it will be your computer and your Internet connection that will seem to have committed the crime.

 

Criminals use counterfeit software to distribute viruses and Trojan Horses for three reasons: First, virtually all software requires Administrator rights to install so the criminal knows you will be giving his installation script full Administrative permission to do whatever it wants in your machine. Second, embedding malicious code within counterfeit software is a great way to avoid scrutiny by anti-virus or malware packages. Finally, the criminal knows that when you install counterfeit software you yourself will be committing a crime so you won't seek help from law enforcement authorities in case of trouble.

 

A final consideration is that some software companies are taking active measures against counterfeiters by placing special lures within their anti-piracy code that they know will be found and eliminated by counterfeiters. However, such lures can be craftily designed so that when they are removed the application begins emitting signals through Internet connections that advertise the use of a pirated copy to the software company and to law enforcement authorities. By using what you think is a safely "cracked" counterfeit copy, you could be inviting the police to raid your home or business.

 

Although it is true that raids are rare, especially in countries where piracy flourishes, even in the worst countries the authorities from time to time like to crush a few pirates, especially end users who are not making payoffs and won't be missed anyway, to show they take the piracy problem "seriously." In such cases only a fool would paint a target on themselves by unwarily using a cracked copy to invite a raid.

 

If you have never considered using counterfeit software the above comments obviously do not apply to you. However, you may find yourself some day counseling a friend or business colleague against the risks of using counterfeit software. The above information may help someone realize that the risks and possible costs of using counterfeit software are greater than they might appear at first glance.