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The risks of using counterfeit software in your business

Are you using counterfeit software in your business? A surprising number of businesses are and may not be aware that their software is illegal.

Many counterfeit software programs are designed to closely resemble the originals and are offered at a reduced cost to businesses.

It is important to ensure that all software is legitimate and licensed as required. Microsoft and Adobe are two brands commonly sought after by those seeking to save money by acquiring unlicensed versions of software. Although it may seem tempting, and a straightforward way to save costs, using counterfeit software has its risks.

The possibility of malware

Counterfeit software can be modified to contain malware which, once installed can allow Trojans to merge with the code and compromise your entire computer system. This has happened with illegal copies of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.

Installing a software program on your computer gives it access to everything else on the machine and if there is a virus attached, the resulting problems can quickly spread. It’s the type of event that could leave your entire system damaged, disrupt your business, and potentially be very costly to rectify.

Penalisation by Microsoft or Adobe

If your business is audited you may face strict penalties. Even if some of your software is licensed, you could still face fines of up to US$150,000 for each program that is infringed.

In addition to paying fines, your business could also be liable for legal costs and if your counterfeit software is considered ‘willful piracy’ rather than a genuine mistake, you could end up facing criminal charges.

Lack of technical support

Unlike licensed software, unlicensed software does not come with the option of technical support. Licensed software will generally come with IT support so that if there is a problem you can have some confidence that it will be fixed and the likelihood of damage to your business can be limited.

Purchase the correct number of licenses

It’s not just the small business owner at risk of getting into trouble with unlicensed software copies. Recently the NSW Police settled out of court with the software company that owns the software used throughout the department and other law enforcement agencies to access the COPS intelligence system.

The issue wasn’t that the software was completely unlicensed, but that they had shared the software around in excess of the number of licenses they had originally purchased.

The amount of the settlement remains under wraps, but the case cost reportedly cost them $1.8 million in legal fees along the way.

The message to take from this example is that you also need to have a system in place to ensure that employees don’t inadvertently put you at risk by installing limited license software on multiple computers.

By choosing a reputable provider for your IT services you can minimise risks to your business through the use of counterfeit or unlicensed software. Many IT services such as Hybrid perform audits on all systems before they start working with a new business and this can identify any discrepancies and ensure that the business is compliant with legal requirements.

James Ackland
James Ackland is the Senior IT Consultant at Hybrid Tech Solutions in Melbourne. With an extensive background in the IT industry, James is passionate about helping businesses grow through well planned and implemented IT systems.