I’ve been laid up in bed following a hernia repair operation last Wednesday (feeling better, thanks!), and while that’s undoubtedly making me crankier than normal, I’m having trouble mustering any sympathy for the people who downloaded pirated copies of iWork ’09 and Photoshop CS4 and had their Macs turned into zombies participating in distributed denial of service attacks. Yeah, it sucks that those people are going to have to go to some effort to wrest back control of their Macs (for safety’s sake, I recommend absolution of a clean install of Mac OS X and applications, moving only documents and settings over) but let’s face it, anyone downloading this software was trying to get something for nothing. Oh, I know, it seems that copying software illegally is a victimless crime, but it’s now painfully clear that doing so also attaches a big “Practices Unsafe Hex!” sign to your back. Perhaps software piracy isn’t so victimless after all.
We’ve been saying for a long time that responsible computing practices include avoiding untrustworthy sites and, especially, not downloading software from such sites. For the most part, we were thinking about the usual gambling, porn, and get-rich-quick sites that attempt to prey on our baser instincts. But with (unverified) claims that as many as 20,000 people downloaded the pirated version of iWork ’09, perhaps we’ve been remiss in not stating the obvious. The kind of people who post pirated software aren’t necessarily the sort of people you want installing software on your Mac. And that’s just what you do when you download pirated software – you invite someone who’s intent on ripping off Apple or Adobe to do what they want with your machine.
So let’s not pretend that this Trojan Horse situation is in any way a normal security exploit or that people who suffered from it didn’t know that they were doing something wrong. They may not have known that their Macs would be dragooned into a denial of service attack, but they certainly knew they were doing something wrong. Not to get all preachy, but in this sort of situation, virtue offers not just its own reward, but also the reward of keeping your Mac safe from unsavory elements.