The Impact of Piracy on SCADA

The problem of software piracy doesn't just affect consumer software. Industrial software, SCADA in particular, is increasingly being pirated and that can negatively impact people and processes.

Alex Hong, Senior Analyst, IHS
Alex Hong, Senior Analyst, IHS

Just like Microsoft Office software, SCADA software  also faces the problem of piracy. Industry is most severely affected in those parts of the world that lack strong enforcement of intellectual property (IP) laws.

The potential risks of using pirated SCADA software are quite high. For example, software vulnerabilities (bugs) may suddenly stop a SCADA application from running or fail to generate an alarm when a shutdown occurs. The poblem escalates over time as pirated software typically cannot receive official updates from the vendor. On top of that is the concern of problems resulting from malicious code inserted into the pirated SCADA software by the hacker.

Despite these concerns, pirated SCADA software remains popular. The primary reason for this is that many large automation suppliers do not view SCADA as a core revenue source, but an additional product to be sold along with their automation hardware products. As a result, these vendors often ignore pirated software products because hardware is their main focus of attention. Plus, the existence of pirated SCADA can be seen by such vendors as still helping to boost brand recognition.For pure SCADA suppliers, however, the scenario is entirely different, as they are badly harmed by the pirated software.

In industries where the stakes are highest, such as in oil & gas and power generation, we have found that pirated SCADA is rarely used. However, pirated SCADA is found more frequently in small OEM applications, such as low-end machinery production or in industries where system stability is not a priority.

To combat this problem, SCADA vendors are working hard to protect their interests and are taking steps such as providing a licenced hardware lock to customers, educating customers about the legal use of SCADA, and frequently updating their software to prevent hacking.

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