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What are so-called Warez

Software piracy is simply dangerous. Plants in the cracked goods include such things as viruses, trojans, and back doors to your private information.

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You know that your networks and computers are vulnerable to attack but did you realize that your software is as well?  Today, software is a key asset for every business. Your organization probably depends on software every day.  Did you realize that, if you use software without appropriate licenses, copyright violations could put you out of business?  Many businesses, often without knowing it, face potential disaster because of software piracy and the attendant risks.  Software management must therefore be a component of your business continuity efforts.

What are Warez?

The term "warez" is generally used to describe commercial software that has been pirated and made available to the public via the Internet or an electronic bulletin board.  Crackers break the software's protection and then share illegal copies of the software.  Then they distribute it around the world via the Internet.  The Jargon Dictionary defines warez as follows:

warez   /weirz/ n.     Widely used in cracker subcultures to denote cracked version of commercial software, that is versions from which copy-protection has been stripped. Hackers recognize this term but don't use it themselves. See warez d00dz, courier, leech, elite.

Note that the term is derived from "ware" as in software - not war although there are similarities.  Because of this, warez is pronounced wayrz or wayrss.  (The cracker subculture just likes to put a "z" on the end of everything.)

Why Worry About Warez?

Whether you sell software or simply use it, software piracy should be a concern.  Either way, piracy can have very costly consequences to your business.  As a business risk, warez should be a concern for you if:

1. Your own software products are being used illegally and you are losing profits;

2. Your employees are using warez and leaving you subject to legal action and penalties; or,

3. Your business is using warez software that are infected with a virus and/or may not function properly.

Any one of these situations can be disruptive and cost your business money.  Illegal software is one of the prime sources of computer viruses and can destroy your data.  Penalties for using illegal software can be significant. The Business Software Alliance receives hundreds of thousands of software piracy reports, often from disgruntled employees. This often results in settlements totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

The Warez Issue

You've heard about the controversy over Napster and the sharing of MP3 files.  Napster arrived in 1999 and caused huge controversy by allowing anyone to share .mp3 music files with others.  Napster users can search other computers across the Internet and download music files for free. Since there are no royalties paid, the artists and recording studios are cut off from their profits.  Napster caused controversy because it made copyright infringement way too easy and because the music industry went on the offensive.

The same thing is happening with software; just like free MP3 files, software is being made available in violation of the copyright.  Crackers are using cracks, patches, keys, and key generators to use software without having to pay for it.  Software authors have faced this problem for a long time.  The original method of violating software copyrights was for one person to buy the software and then all the program disks to be used by others for multiple installations.  It is still happening that way but the warez issue has raised the stakes.  Like Napster, it is now too easy to cheat.  Software is being shared freely over the Internet, greatly increasing the availability of illegal software.  Software developers spend enormous amounts of time and energy developing software only to have people steal it from them.  While the controversy around Napster has been well-publicized, the illegal use of business software has gotten much less attention.  

Warez Makes Piracy Easy

The Internet has made it all too easy to steal, market, and distribute copyrighted material.  Pirated software on the Internet can be shared via bulletin boards, e-mail, news groups, web sites and now, even on  Internet auction sites where it is misrepresented as legal software.  

Warez is gaining in popularity on the Internet - an indication of how many people are looking for it.  According to SearchWords.com, "mp3" is the number one search word while "warez" is the number five most used Internet search term -- beating out even the ever-popular "Pamela Anderson" as shown in the table below.


Most Popular
Internet Search Words

1 mp3 6.67%
2 sex 5.74%
3 hotmail 3.92%
4 yahoo 2.67%
5 warez 2.67%
6 pokemon 2.11%
7 n64 roms 2.01%
8 chat 1.82%
9 pamela anderson 1.51%
10 playboy 1.41%

The Use of Unlicensed Software is Illegal

Use of unlicensed software is obviously illegal and just plain wrong.  But, just like the speed limit, it is a law that is often broken.  Otherwise law abiding citizens exceed the speed limit and may violate copyrights every day.  Like speeding, the use of illegal software may be widely condoned but it can get you into trouble with the law.  Software piracy can lead to stiff fines and criminal prosecutions.  In addition, you can expect no warranties or support for illegal software, leaving your company on its own to deal with any problems.  

You may think that you are saving money by buying on copy of a program and letting everyone in the office us it but software piracy is a serious matter.  You may even be committing piracy without know it.  Deeply discounted computers may be "pre-loaded" with software that is not licensed.

If your business has obtained warez, used software in violation of the copyright, or has purchased software that did not come with a license for its use, you may well be using pirated software and are taking a big risk for your company.  If an employee installs unauthorized copies of software on company computers or illegally downloads software from the Internet, the company may be held liable - even if the company's management was not aware of the employee's actions.

What is Gnutella?

With file sharing portals like Napster and Scour Exchange biting the dust you might think that the file sharing era was almost over.  But not so fast, Gnutella, a fully-distributed information-sharing technology is alive and well.  Gnutella does not rely on a central server.  There are a several things that will likely prevent Gnutella from being stopped by lawyers.  First, Gnutella is nothing more than a protocol.  It's a totally distributed guerilla network for information sharing.  There is no company to sue and no server to shut down. No one corporate entity is really responsible for Gnutella.

BearShare is another file sharing program from FreePeers.com that is based on Gnutella technology.  BearShare provides a simple, easy to use interface combined with a powerful connection and search engine that provides access to thousands of different files.

While “illegal” file sharing is still possible through e-mail or FTP, technology like this makes it much easier to find and share illegal files.

What to Do?

We all learned from Y2K how important it is to have a good inventory of our software applications.  As with asset management, good software management requires that you maintain this inventory.  License documentation should be an integral part of this effort.  Every enterprise should work to ensure that illegal software is not being used and that all licenses are kept current.

Proper procedures, good management and employee education can help your organization deal with piracy issues.  Employees must understand how vitally important it is to stay legal.  Preventing workplace piracy requires procedures that ensure that only legal software is purchased and used, and that any illegal software is disposed of at once.

A good resource, along with other information and material, is available in the Business Software Alliance's "Software Management Guide."  See more about the BSA below as well as other resources.

Business Software Alliance

The BSA serves as the voice of the software industry.  An international organization representing leading software and e-commerce developers in 65 countries around the world, BSA has filed lawsuits against operators of Internet sites pirating software and shut down hundreds of other sites. In some cases, computers were confiscated, and the operators are still paying settlements.

Each year BSA receives hundreds of thousands of software piracy reports, often from current or former employees. Based on these reports, BSA begins investigations of companies located throughout the country, often resulting in settlements totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the past seven years, BSA has collected approximately $50 million in penalties from companies caught with unlicensed software.

The BSA is actively working with law enforcement agencies to bring more criminal cases against Internet pirates. If you know of warez sites or other illegal activity, you can report piracy online or by calling 1-888-NO-PIRACY.

BSA offer numerous resources:
Guide to Software Management, Software Piracy and U.S. Law, Software Management Self-Assessment Test, Sample Memorandum to Employees, Sample Software Needs Analysis for Employees, Sample Corporate Policy


Anti-Piracy Links

The Business Software Alliance are the leaders in the anit-piracy effort.

BSA Anti-Piracy Site - Software management facts and free audit tools. Sponsored by the Business Software Alliance.

RIAA Anti-Piracy campaign

FAST - Federation Against Software Theft, UK software industry group working alongside corporations who require advice and guidance to achieve a legally sustainable software environment.

SPA Anti-Piracy - A division of the Software and Information Industry Association, provides education and enforcement in dealing with software piracy.

Other Resources

The hacker glossary is a good start for understanding the hacker lingo.

The Jargon File is another one.

Get virus protection software from McAfee.com

Warez Sites
Warning: These sites are listed for reference purposes only.  DavisLogic does not condone warez.  Enter these sites at your own risk, they may contain dangerous files and may violate the copyright of others. 

WarezFAQ - FAQ for alt.binaries.warez.ibm-pc and the other warez-related groups in English, French, HTML and text.

Official FAQ For alt.binaries.cd.image - Guidelines and frequently asked questions for newsgroup for the distribution and use of software CD images via the Internet.





The New Hacker's Dictionary - Eric S. Raymond (Compiler); Hardcover or Paperback  

Defending Your Digital Assets Against Hackers, Crackers, Spies, and Thieves by Randall K. Nichols, Daniel J. Ryan, Julie J. C. H. Ryan

Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier by Katie Hafner, John Markoff   

Cybershock: Surviving Hackers, Phreakers, Identity Thieves, Internet Terrorists and Weapons of Mass Disruption by Winn Schwartau

Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace by Michele Slatalla, Joshua Quittner (Contributor)

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier by Bruce Sterling

Jargon Watch: A Pocket Dictionary for the Jitterati by Gareth Branwyn (Editor)