A metal shelf unit contains a rack of monitors, some video equipment, spare keyboards. For the next week, he will pretend to be a trader, a courier, a cracker, a newbie, a lamer, a lurker, a leecher.Everything is wired insanely to a single ISDN line. He is an undercover Internet detective, a "technical investigator." He spends his days roving the Net, finding people like Mad Hatter - and busting them.A lot of that is garden-variety unlicensed copying and Far East-style counterfeiting. "We are seeing a very, very rapid development of crime on the Internet."He's not being paranoid: look at the thousands of messages that pour through alt.binaries.warez.ibm-pc and the other Usenet sites that are the warez world's pulsing heart.But an estimated one-third leaks out through warez world, which can be anywhere there's a computer, a phone, and a modem. In a typical week, you'll see Microsoft Office Pro and Visual C , Autodesk 3D Studio MAX, Soft Image 3D, Sound Forge, Cakewalk Pro Audio, Word Perfect, Adobe Photoshop 4.0 - virtually every high-end package in existence. Add a smattering of mundane Web tools, Net apps, registered shareware, games, and utilities, and you have everything for the forward-looking computer user.But in Mad Hatter's world, those sticker prices means nothing - except inasmuch as more expensive programs are harder to crack, and that makes them the most desirable, spectacular trophies of all. Antipiracy organizations like the Software Publishers Association and Business Software Alliance estimate that more than US$5 million worth of software is cracked and uploaded daily to the Net, where anyone can download it free of charge.A running scoreboard on the BSA Web site charts the industry's losses to piracy: $482 a second, $28,900 a minute, $1.7 million an hour, $41.6 million a day, $291.5 million a week. "It's a frightening scenario out there," says Martin Smith, Novell's product-licensing manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.And a world of profit pirates, who do exactly what the software makers say: rip off other people's stuff and sell it for their own benefit.In Phil's world, software is a valuable tool that commands high prices - programs like Quark XPress, Windows NT, and Auto CAD, costing thousands of dollars a shot. Filthy lucre Phil's world is full of nasty numbers.
Warez crackers, traders, and collectors don't pirate software to make a living: they pirate software because they can.Look at Michael, an 18-year-old warez junkie who's also into weight lifting. It took me three months to get the entire set." A directory called WAREZ on his D:/ drive has $50,000 worth of cracked software, more than any one person could ever use, ludicrous amounts of applications.In the evenings, while his friends pursue women, he's either at the gym or home at his machine, combing the planet for the latest dot releases of 3D Studio MAX. The more high-end and toolbar-tastic the app, the better. "You end up collecting programs you don't need and never use. They keep a high profile, both in posting files on Usenet and flaming lamers.By the end of the day Mad Hatter, a ringleader of the software piracy group called the Inner Circle, will have poured 300 Mbytes of illegal "warez" onto the Internet.
Monday morning, 9 a.m., Greenwich Mean Time: Phil arrives for work in Bracknell, England, in a suit and tie, just back from a few days in Switzerland.
For the software industry, it's a billion-dollar nightmare.