Pirated software puts MDAs at risk

Business News of Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Source: B&FT


The use of pirated or hacked computer software by Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) poses a serious security risk for government, Dorothy K.Gordon, the Director-General of the Advanced Information Technology Institute at the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT has warned.

According to Ms. Gordon, the use of such illegally-acquired software makes government information systems susceptible to attacks from hackers who could steal sensitive data about government’s operations.

“The dangers of using hacked software cannot be over-emphasised. Often, the places such illegal codes are acquired to break genuine software are criminal and dangerous websites. This means that the computer is registered as using the software illegally,” she said.

She was speaking to the B&FT on the sidelines of a ceremony to mark Document Freedom Day (DFD), a global day to celebrate open standards and document formats. Open standards ensure communication is independent of a software vendor, given people the ability to communicate using free software.

She added that “vendors of the pirated software usually have the ability to determine the exact location of their clients using a computer’s Internet Provider (IP) address, as well as access to data stored on the computer.

“Apart from being a criminal act, the illegal vendors discretely steal delicate financial information and other sensitive data from the user’s computer. So organisations using such software have exposed their sensitive data to criminals unknowingly.”

According to Ms. Gordon, there are Open Source Solutions for routine procedures such as word processing which are freely available for download on the Internet and come at no extra cost to the user.

She added that “governments must be conscious that they don’t force their citizens to buy particular software in order to access material that has been produced with the citizen’s money for the benefit of the citizen. There should be no additional layer of cost in there.”

“Open Source Software will provide cost savings for government, particularly decreasing budget on software procurement and licences, interoperability (universal file formats), easier integration and customisation leading to fewer barriers to reuse.

“The opposite of Open Document Format is the Propriety Closed Formats, which are software sold by the respective designing companies and are usually upgradable at an extra cost to the user. For instance, a user has to purchase a Microsoft Office Suite in order to read a document saved in that format, whereas any ODF can be opened by any other word processing software.”

The DFD, which has been marked on the last Wednesday of March since 2008, celebrates open standards which are data formats with open documentation free to use for the public.

The key advantage of an open source document is it guarantees that even in a hundred years anybody interested can read the data format and understand it.