The Internet is under fire from the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which has shut down 18 314 auctions selling 45 000 items of pirated software, worth a combined $22-million.
The anti-piracy organisation is also tackling the illegal sale of software via peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and other Internet-based channels.
The BSA's activity on the Internet has increased three-fold from 2007 and includes a heightened focus on the crackdown of pirated software in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.
As part of the internet programme focus, the BSA has released a report detailing the threats of using illegal software downloaded from the Internet.
Neil MacBride, vice-president: anti-piracy and general counsel at the BSA, says: "The anonymity of buying over the web leads to the distorted belief that intellectual property (IP) theft is a victimless crime.
"While many would not dream of shoplifting a music CD or package of software from a store, they are willing to go online to seek out copies of what is clearly illegal software. Ignorance is not an excuse – businesses should be making basic checks to ensure that what they are buying is authentic."
Internet users face considerable risks when buying software from unauthorised sources online, such as data loss, viruses and system failure. If the price is "too good to be true", it probably is, the BSA warns.
The organsiation aims to close auctions as well as illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and, in the first half of 2008, issued 48 000 notices regarding BitTorrent files being used by as many as 633 000 people, worth an estimated $525-million.
"Auction sites must do more to protect consumers," adds Neil MacBride. "To increase protection for their customers, auction sites should, at the very least, assume responsibility and highlight the risks to customers buying software online.
"Forging close collaborations with the software industry, auction sites could alert software companies of auctions posted and slow the process down by stopping the 'buy it now function' – providing more time to monitor and catch pirated software."