Pirated software and content available online has increased by almost a quarter in the past three years, according to a new study by security firm Arxan.
The fourth Arxan State of Application Security report said that much of this rise is down to hacks on individuals and corporations.
The obvious victims are creators and publishers, but Arxan said that the true cost of piracy spreads further.
The company warned that enterprises spent some $491bn in 2014 because of malware associated with pirated software. Malware attacks, of course, are just one part of the threat matrix affecting businesses.
"The findings prove that piracy is one of the greatest threats to intellectual property and creative content, highlighting the enabling role pirated releases play in spreading extremely harmful malware across a range of industries," said Patrick Kehoe, chief marketing officer at Arxan.
The study looked at sites on the regular and dark web, and the researchers found a huge haul of illegally copied material including 1.6 million items of software, gaming and digital media, an increase of around 50 percent against previous years' studies.
Much of the piracy can be blamed on "poorly protected applications", according to the firm, which claims that just a few come "deployed with protected binary code".
Arxan warned that this opens content to criminals who can analyse it back to its source code and pirate it. Theft of cryptographic keys is also contributing to the increase in piracy.
Arxan said that these problems combine with the internet's distribution system to provide rapid passage to cracked releases and access to the hundreds of millions of internet users who use piracy sites.
The company suggested that the only winners here are the pirates and the piracy sites, which made over $200m in advertising revenue last year.
The iThreat Cyber Group said that all kinds of organisations should be aware of the threat and risks of piracy and must stay on top of the problem.
"The threat posed by piracy cannot be limited to its effects on one company, one industry or one country," said iThreat Cyber Group chief executive Jeff Bedser.
"The sheer number of cases in the US and abroad, dictates that the software, digital media and mobile gaming industries must become savvier with regards to combatting pirated releases across national boundaries.
"The best thing content owners can do is continually monitor the marketplace and equip themselves with intelligence tools and data and application protection techniques to fight piracy head on."
One firm looking to tackle the piracy problem is Malwarebytes, which is currently offering an amnesty on unofficial versions of its software.
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