Piracy could aggravate Y2K problems

Software piracy could be the leading cause of eventual year 2000 computer problems, a panel of information technology industry executives told US lawmakers yesterday.

The panel was convened as part of a three-day series of hearings, which started Monday, organised by Congress' Joint Economic Committee (JEC). The hearings, publicised as a "summit" on high technology, were meant to educate lawmakers on computer issues and explore the role of public policy in the development of IT.

In response to a question posed by Representative Anna Eshoo, a Silicon Valley Democrat, about foreign governments' use of pirated software and their resulting vulnerability to the year 2000 problem, Lotus president Jeff Papows agreed that updating customers with the latest version of software programs is among the primary defences against potential year 2000 date problems.

Users of pirated software are not likely to receive the latest updates that licensed users do, which could cause unexpected year 2000 problems. Since the identity of software pirates is generally unknown and the volume of pirated software in use in any given organisation or country can only be estimated, there could be a bigger problem than what year 2000 experts now project, Papows said.

Another member of the panel, William Larson, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Network Associates, noted the Chernobyl virus hit especially hard in markets where software piracy is particularly rampant, especially several Pacific Rim countries, illustrating the vulnerability software pirates have to this type of problem.

On the other hand software pirates may not be all that vulnerable to flaws in older software, Papows quipped: "They can always steal the updates."

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