Human factor 'key' in piracy war

2013-04-25 16:08
Counterfeit copies of Windows 7 can closely resemble genuine software. (Microsoft)

Counterfeit copies of Windows 7 can closely resemble genuine software. (Microsoft)

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Istanbul – Interpol works with a variety of industry players to identify and arrest individuals who are involved in the piracy of intellectual property.

“Generally, its a community effort that helps Interpol identify those people who have suddenly come into wealth and isn’t consistent with lawful conduct,” Ronald K Noble, secretary general of Interpol, told News24 on the side-lines of the Global Conference on Counterfeiting and Piracy.

Piracy is a persistent problem, particularly for software companies because the illegal programs can be downloaded from the internet, giving the criminals better opportunities to hide their identities.

According to the BSA Global Software Piracy study, while 83% of PC users believe that legal software is more secure than pirated software, up to 60% admit to using  pirated software.

The illegal software has the potential to compromise data by installing malware that may turn the PC into a bot which hackers can use to attack large company servers or steal personal information.

Financial routes

Interpol says that the human factor is critical to uncovering criminal enterprises that conduct sales of pirated software.

“Whether you are a developing country or an advanced country, your source of information would be human-based and human generated,” said Noble.

Around 100 countries actively participate in combating piracy with Interpol and the global organisation assists by helping local law enforcement trace the financial routes of organisations that sell illegal software.

“Governments around the world are concerned about their citizens’ safety and security and when citizens go online to buy products that they think are one thing for their health, but turn out to be something else making them ill, that concerns governments,” Noble said of the trade in illicit medicines.

According to the World Customs Organisation’s Interface Public-Members tool of which SA is a signatory, customs officers can scan a barcode of a product which helps them distinguish genuine from fake products.

This is helpful with physical products like medicines, but when it comes to software which can be downloaded from a website hosted anywhere in the world, investigators target the merchant bank through which the money moves.


These tactics drive up the cost of doing business for criminals so that they cease the activity, even if the prospect of arrest is remote.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo), the short term gain for consumers from software piracy should be taken into context with the long term benefits of better technology through investment.

“The long term advantage is that the smartphone keeps getting better and the culture of innovation is financed, as it were, through a circle,” said Dr Francis Gurry, director general of Wipo.

– Follow Duncan on Twitter.

Read more on:    internet  |  cybercrime

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