SARASOTA, Fla. (Nov. 26, 2011) — Thanksgiving is a time of spending time with family and friends, but it also is a time to reflect of things that have occurred in the past year.
V.i. Labs, Founded in 2006 by application security pioneers, “offers companies solutions to generate actionable intelligence on the use and misuse of their software to increase revenue.”
Software piracy costs millions of dollars in lost revenue each year for software companies, music labels, and movie producers.
For years, companies developed encrypted files to prevent copying, software keys, and now online registration where the software, before it starts, checks whether it is a licensed copy by comparing the registration information with what is on file in the company’s computer.
Hackers and computer experts have defeated every attempt companies have developed to protect their assets.
Even the latest method, offering a trimmed down version of their full product for less money, has slowed down piracy some, but not enough.
For example, to buy the full version of Photoshop will set you back more than $600. However, for $70 to $90 (depending if you are upgrading), you can get their latest imaging processor, most of the basic tools, some advanced features, and full compatibility with plug-ins that can be used in the full product.
However, individuals and companies continue to continue to use pirated copies.
So V.i. Labs has reviewed all the software protection schemes this year and identified the five worst efforts at software protection.
The five “turkeys” of 2011 are:
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA): Legislation that had a hearing before the House Judicial Committee on Nov. 16 is a bill that many sources claim that it is nothing more than online censorship.
This bill has changed so many times, V.i. Labs state they do not support the bill, but not because of censorship. They believe the bill “simply won’t stop online piracy.”
This bill adds new tools for law enforcement to stop piracy by allowing them to shut down access to the suspected Web sites. It also allows law enforcement to stop access by other sites, such as PayPal, preventing payment for stolen software, music or movies.
The legislation is so maligned it even has a provision that makes it illegal to purchase drugs online without a prescription.
Ever since software companies started to fight piracy, the people stealing the software seem to find ways around any new law or process that is thrown their way.
“We believe software vendors should focus their resources on reducing the piracy of their products by tracking the adoption of unlicensed software and legalizing organizations and users through education and direct compliance programs,” V.i. Labs said presenting their top five turkeys.
The Whistleblower Process: Just as testimony of a witness to a crime can be prone to errors, the same can be said of relying on a fellow co-worker reporting his company for using pirated software.
In addition, many whistleblowers, such as former disgruntled employees, may have ulterior motives in falsely turning in their former employer.
This happened in a recent case concerning Tiger Communications. The employee downloaded software illegally, and when he was fired, he turned in the company.
Now, the Business Software Alliance is trying a new tactic – they will enter the whistleblower into sweepstakes, giving them a chance of winning $1,000, regardless of the outcome of the case. Experts say this will bring in more accusations that will turn out to be false, just so the caller can enter the contest.
Employee apathy: A report published by the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) stated that two-thirds of workers in the United Kingdom turn a “blind-eye to their employer’s use of pirated software.”
The report states: “While we don’t think whistleblowing is an effective method of uncovering software piracy use, we do think employees who are aware their employers are using pirated software should encourage their employers to pursue a course of action that will bring them into compliance.”
The report concluded that: “As more and more software vendors adopt amnesty programs forgiving past software piracy transgressions in exchange for new compliant customers, this process should improve.”
We won’t hold our breath on this one either.
China and other foreign countries: The Chinese government denies that software piracy is an issue there and does not believe it should be a major concern of theirs.
However, China does not have a strong piracy law, and a recent report from Microsoft claims that in China and other countries with lax software piracy laws, $1.6 billion in software is stolen from there.
Foreign governments (who are also the largest forger of U.S. currency), needs to strengthen their piracy laws so all companies operating there are on an even playing field.
“It will promote better competition and better quality products,” V.i. Labs reported.
Software vendors who “stick their heads in the sand”: V.i. Labs said this isn’t a turkey, but actually an ostrich. These are companies that believe by ignoring the problem, somehow provides them with “viral marketing.”
The only thing this provides to them is lost revenue, money they can never make up, or get back. Most of these companies can’t even quantify the loss they have suffered.
However, it is these companies that provide the perception that stealing software is common and an acceptable practice.