Illegal downloading puts UK companies at risk

02 Jul, 2013

The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is advising organisations to undertake regular sweeps of their IT infrastructure for rogue Trojan programmes capable of making available illegally cracked software, following a recent action taken by the enforcement body.

 

FAST has previously noted that IT environments, where illegal use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing takes place, a common method of accessing pirated software, are often lacking in other areas of compliance.

 

Amber Sounds, a local radio station in Derbyshire, had been working closely with FAST to ensure it was software compliant. Working directly with the managing director, FAST was able to give guidance on how to conduct a software audit on its IT estate.

 

However, it was only after the conclusion of the process that FAST was approached by P Squared Limited, a specialist software company supplying professional broadcast radio software, alleging that Amber Sounds was making available cracked versions of its application from its website.

 

FAST contacted the managing director, who acted swiftly and responsibly, identifying the key generating code (‘keygen’) that was being used, as well as the identity of the former employee who had installed the link.  The keygen, which had allowed third parties to download the software for free, was removed within hours of Amber Sounds being informed.

 

Alex Hilton (pictured), Chief Executive of FAST, explains: “Installing free software from illicit P2P sites is not recommended. There is a likelihood of malware being a free and silent add-on. Remember, the company itself could be at risk if using software without licence. Directors and senior management who consent or connive in the installation of illicit copies for the business could face prosecution also for their tactic agreement, that is letting it continue and saying nothing about it. We applaud Amber Sounds for its rapid and responsible action.”

 

Robin Fry, Partner at DAC Beachcroft LLP, adds: “If illegal software is being run, then the servers and hard drives can be ‘delivered up’, i.e. seized for further investigation under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, even if the company was not previously aware of the issue. Businesses have to take active steps to guarantee compliance rather than hoping that a plaintive ‘We had no idea…’ will exempt them.”

 

“We would remind all firms to include an IT policy as part of the conditions of employment which new hires should agree to at the commencement of employment,” Alex continued. “With existing staff, all users need to be made aware and accept the adjustment in policy, including what steps will be taken against those who use corporate computers for illegal ends.

 

“It really is cheaper to keep control of your IT estate and software licensing rather than try to cut corners. Advice and help is available to organisations that need it. There is guidance and advice on our website and many of our members, whose details are also on our website, are experts in these fields,” he concluded.

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