Rogue nations are increasingly able to pick up powerful scientific and engineering software from online piracy warehouses.
According to the New York Times, the software can be used in a wide range of tasks such as designing rockets or nuclear reactors, and predicting the path of a cloud of anthrax spores.
These software programs cannot legally be exported to countries such as North Korea or Iraq, but the internet provides a way round any such restrictions.
An official at the US Department of Justice said that the software is designed to model the fuel flow in a fighter jet.
Software industry experts have suggested that most of the illegal trade is carried out by Chinese companies which market the programs for a tiny price.
Software companies, already unhappy about piracy, are furious that their technology could get into the wrong hands.
The New York Times quoted one software company boss as saying: "It stinks that people can get it for nothing, but it absolutely stinks that these guys can get it for nothing."
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