Startups and small businesses are always on the lookout for ways to save money and reduce operating expenses. And most of the time we’d say that’s a good thing.
But one area in particular seems especially tempted for many businesses, and it’s a dangerous one: pirated software.
We get it: software can get pretty expensive, especially business products that charge by the seat. But stealing that software is a problem for all sorts of reasons beyond the obvious.
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Pirated Software?
Pirated software is any computer application that has been modified so that it will function without requiring payment or authorization or so that it can be distributed in ways the creators didn’t intend or won’t allow. In most cases, hackers take a software product that costs money — say, Microsoft Word — and modify it so that the software no longer requires an authorization code (or accepts a fake one).
The classic example is Adobe Photoshop: before the current subscription-based Creative Cloud came along, a single Photoshop license cost thousands of dollars. The typical art student or entry-level designer couldn’t afford it, so they tracked down pirated versions of the app and used it for free.
Are Businesses Really Using Pirated Software?
Yes, more than you might expect. Project management tools, sales software, and marketing apps are frequent targets. Even crazier: recently 56% of polled business owners said they would consider using pirated cyber security software!
Using broken, illegal software to protect your most vital digital assets just isn’t a good idea.
What’s Wrong with Pirating Software?
First, using pirated software is illegal and unethical. It costs money to make good software, and when people steal that software (use it without paying), the creators don’t profit as they should and can’t keep improving the tool. Not to mention, it’s illegal: if you get caught, you could be fined and owe damages.
It’s the “if everybody did” conundrum here: it’s easy to think that no one will notice your business pirating software, but if everybody did it, there wouldn’t be any software to pirate.
But beyond the legal and ethical problems it has, pirated software can be dangerous in several other ways.
The Dangers of Using Pirated Software
If the legal and ethical considerations haven’t scared you away, consider these additional dangers:
- No support: When you don’t acquire software legitimately, you don’t have access to support from the software makers. If the software isn’t doing what you’re expecting it to, you’re on your own.
- Lack of stability: Pirated software is inherently broken. That’s the whole point: breaking the software so that it can no longer distinguish whether you’re a legit paying customer. It’s very common for other elements to break in the process, which can disrupt your business or at the least slow you down.
- Malware: Pirated software is a popular vehicle for spreading malware. Think about why someone might crack an expensive software tool and put it out there for free. Sure, some may be anarchists or “power to the people” sorts, but most have something they want to get out of the arrangement. That something is very frequently malware embedded in the “free” software.
How to Stay Protected
Using pirated software isn’t worth the risk. Here’s how to stay protected.
First, buy software directly from the creator or through a respected vendor. If you find yourself on a sketchy looking website to download a serious business tool, something’s wrong.
Second, you need to prevent your employees from installing unauthorized apps on their own. Endpoint management is the most effective way to do this, and we can help you get that up and running.
If you could use help with endpoint protection or finding the right (legit) software, we’re here for you. And if you’re worried that some dabbling in pirated software may have compromised your systems, we can get you back on the right track.
Need help? Reach out today!