If you download pirated software from Pirate Bay or another torrent website on a computer you use in the workplace, then you’re placing your entire business network at risk. A person downloading pirated software has a one-in-three chance of encountering malware. However, the risk isn’t just in downloading the latest version of “Modern Warfare” before it comes to the U.S. Businesses that purchase refurbished computers containing pirated software have a 61-percent chance of encountering malware.
Recent research released by IDC and the National University of Singapore predicts that pirated software will costs businesses approximately $491 billion in 2014. The majority of the cost, $364 billion, comes from lost data, damage repair and identity theft expenses. Endpoint protection solutions for business should provide some protection, but the best way to prevent malware is to avoid piracy altogether. In addition to telling employees to stay away from torrents, use extreme caution when purchasing refurbished computers for your company.
The Pros and Cons of Buying Refurbished Computers
Purchasing high-quality refurbished computers, mobile devices and servers for your business can be a great way to get good machines for a reasonable price. When you don’t need the most up-to-date system on the market, you can get something workable at a price you can afford. In a sense, you buy refurbished computers for the same reason you buy pre-owned cars. You can get more features and a better price on a slightly older machine than you’d get if you purchased a brand new item.
You wouldn’t purchase a used car from an unscrupulous dealer, and you shouldn’t purchase a refurbished computer from an anonymous or questionable source. The nice-sounding person selling used laptops on eBay may be selling machines that contain pirated copies of software. The person may not do so with intent to hurt you or your company; in fact, the seller may have no idea that the computer contains malware. However, the seller’s benign intentions won’t save your company from the cost of downloading malware. About half of small businesses that experience a data breach are no longer operating within six months of the attack.
Best Places to Purchase Refurbished Computers
Despite the good prices that you may see from an online seller or unfamiliar retailer, you should buy any refurbished computer used for your business either directly from the manufacturer or from a well-known technology retailer. Companies like Dell, Apple and other big manufacturers usually sell refurbished equipment on their websites. You can also purchase from a local electronics refurbishing company as long as you verify the reputation of the business.
When you buy from a known entity, you know that the computers you get are in good condition. They usually provide some type of warranty in addition to technical support in case you have a problem. You can also be assured that the equipment wasn’t lost or stolen and then resold by a dishonest person. Most importantly, the manufacturer or a trusted refurbished computer retailer will make sure that your computer contains only authorized software. Even if the previous owner downloaded pirated files or pirated software, the computer that you receive will be safe to use.
If You Buy From an Individual or Unfamiliar Online Store
If you’re determined to purchase a refurbished computer from an online auction site, from an unfamiliar retailer or even from your friend who fixes up computers as a hobby, never connect the computer to your company’s network without running a complete antivirus scan. Also, ask for the product keys to all copies of important software including the operating system, office products and other essential applications. Make a CD-ROM or USB drive backup of all of the software. If something happens to your machine, all of the money you saved when you bought a refurbished computer will disappear when you pay for new software licenses.
Finally, whether you purchase new computers or refurbished machines, make sure your employees are educated about the dangers of pirated software and torrents. Include language against piracy in your BYOD policy or employee handbook. If that pirated copy of “Game of Thrones” introduces malware to a company computer, it could bring down your network and give critical data to cyber attackers. You’ve worked hard to build your company. Don’t let pirates hijack your ship.