(Photo courtesy of naveenium at Flickr)
Software Piracy is a multi-billion dollar issue. Whether it's hawked in a spam e-mail, a flea market or on a auction site -- it might not work as well as advertised -- and could even lead to identity theft.
You never know what might be installed in pirated software. The person selling it to you might add a little malicious software (containing a keylogger) and steal all your personal and financial information.
A recent case showing how pirated software leads to identity theft was announced by the Department of Justice:
An Oregon man pleaded guilty today to selling counterfeit computer software with a retail value of more than $1 million, in addition to aggravated identity theft and mail fraud, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Alice S. Fisher and Karin J. Immergut, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. This case is part of the Justice Department’s initiative to combat online auction piracy.
Jeremiah Joseph Mondello, 23, of Eugene, Ore., pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal copyright infringement, aggravated identity theft and mail fraud before U.S. District Court Judge Ann L. Aiken in Eugene. Mondello faces up to 27 years in prison, a maximum fine of $500,000 and three years of supervised release. Sentencing has been set for July 23, 2008.
Although this only appears to be a small win in the overall problem, it illustrates the danger of installing unauthorized software on your system. You might get more than you bargained for:
Mondello admitted to stealing individuals’ identifying information to establish online payment accounts in their names. Mondello acquired victims’ names, bank account numbers and passwords by using a computer keystroke logger program to surreptitiously obtain this information. The keystroke logger program installed itself on the victim’s computer and then recorded the victim’s name and bank account information as the information was being typed. The program then electronically sent the information back to Mondello, and he used this stolen information to establish the online payment accounts.
In other words, the moral of the story is that the money you save buying knock-off software can easily be lost when the seller returns to clean out your financial assets.
Trust me, criminals are not honorable and they could care less, if you get left holding the bag.
Last, but not least, most victims of identity theft are able to get their financial institutions to write-off their losses. However, if they discover you used illegal software -- which happened to contain malicious capabilities -- my guess is they are going to deny your fraud claim.
DOJ credited the Software & Information Industry Association for their assistance in this conviction. This association represents the software industry and goes after software and content piracy. They provide a means to report instances of piracy and offer up to a million dollar reward for doing so.
Full press release on this matter, here.