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Piracy and Security Threats Go Hand In Hand

Ten years ago, the main threats to security online were vandals and hackers. They chased notoriety and relished the challenge of beating security systems. Their calling cards tended to be denial-of-service attacks, which they used to bring down prominent sites such as eBay and CNN.

Today, the stakes are much higher. Organized criminal enterprises are using the Internet to conduct large-scale scams in pursuit of big payouts. The tools of their trade include worms, viruses, adware, and links to fake websites, to name a few, which they use to steal valuable data from consumers and enterprises of all sorts.

The losses from this data-security crisis are huge. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse maintains a chronology of data breaches, which recorded 215 breaches in 2009 involving more than 218 million individual records. The Ponemon Institute, meanwhile, concluded data breaches that year cost US organizations an average of $204 per breached record. That means the total value of data breaches in 2009 approached $45 billion.

An under-reported fact in all this is that software piracy and cybersecurity threats go hand in hand. That is because pirated software is often used to distribute malicious computer code that compromises individual computers and entire networks, putting companies, governments and consumers at risk. The research firm IDC found that one-quarter of the websites offering pirated software attempt to install malware.

What should be done to stem this tide of security threats? That question was on the table when I testified at a May 25 cybersecurity hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet.

A good start would clearly be to curb software piracy, which leapt 14 percent in its global value last year to $59 billion, according to BSA’s recently released 2010 Global Software Piracy Study. BSA also supports well-crafted legislation, as I outlined in my testimony to the Judiciary Committee, to strengthen the hand of law enforcement and prosecutors, create uniform data security and breach-notification rules, and provide incentives for private companies to share information about threats with government agencies.

It is heartening that Congress and the Administration appear to be focused on cybersecurity issues, because the stakes are growing all the time.

Robert Holleyman

Author:

As President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance from 1990 until April 2013, Robert Holleyman long served as the chief advocate for the global software industry. Before leaving BSA to start his own venture, Cloud4Growth, Holleyman led the most successful anti-piracy program in the history of any industry, driving down software piracy rates in markets around the world.

Named one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world, he was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law. A widely respected champion for open markets, Holleyman also was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, the principal advisory committee for the US government on trade matters.

Holleyman was a leader in industry efforts to establish the legal framework necessary for cloud-computing technologies to flourish. He was an early proponent for policies that promote deployment of security technologies to build public trust and confidence in cyberspace. And he created a highly regarded series of forums for industry executives and policymakers to exchange points of view and forge agreements on the best ways to spur technology advances and promote economic growth.

Before heading BSA, Holleyman was a counselor and legislative adviser in the United States Senate, an attorney in private practice, and a judicial clerk in US District Court. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, a J.D. from Louisiana State University, and has completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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