The number of Web sites offering pirated software has more than doubled in the last year, according to a new study, and will likely continue to climb.
There are now an estimated 5,400 sites containing pirated software–known as “warez” in the Internet underground–representing more than 800,000 individual Web pages, according to a study done by Websense Inc.
Websense arrived at its numbers by using its proprietary software and an internal database that sorts web sites into more than 75 categories. The number of warez sites could be a bit misleading, however, as the total cited by the company includes all so-called hacking sites. Because many such sites contain warez and/or information on pirated software, they were included in the total, a Websense spokeswoman said.
Warez have typically been traded among young Internet users looking for free copies of hot software, most often games and other expensive programs. In these circles the ultimate goal is to obtain so-called “zero-day warez,” or software pirated on the same day it was released.
But recent anecdotal evidence has suggested that businesses increasingly are using pirated software, often unknowingly. In the last nine years, the Business Software Association has pulled in more than $60 million in fines from businesses using pirated software.
The Websense tally of warez sites reinforces statements by the BSA that software piracy is on the rise. The BSA on behalf of its members has waged a high-profile campaign against piracy and recently forced an Austrian warez site to close down.
Websense, a San Diego-based company specializing in Internet-usage software, said that the term warez has become one of the most popular search terms on Internet search engines. Early Wednesday afternoon, warez was number 37 on Wordtracker Associates Ltd.s list of the days most oft-searched-for words, behind things such as “pumpkin carving patterns” and “anthrax.”
In addition to the thousands of warez sites on the Internet, there are even warez-specific metacrawlers that prowl the Web looking for newly pirated software. Indexes such as Warezcrawler, which lists 5,177 sites, have also sprung up to satisfy the growing appetite for illegal software.
One Russian warez site, for example, is advertising Microsoft Corp.s Office XP for less than $20; its online counter showed more than 700 orders. A new copy of Office XP typically retails for about $450.