How often IT workers cheat on certification exams, buy fake gear or illegally share software
When it comes to professional ethics, few things in life are black and white. Do most IT workers think it's unethical to study for a certification exam with actual exam questions (so-called brain dumps)? Is it OK to buy used gear from an unauthorised dealer? How about new gear? What about gear falsely sporting a brand name (fake gear)?
And what is the one professional area where IT professionals "cheat" the most? So we went to the source, asking 200 IT professionals to participate in an online survey on IT Ethics. Click on to see the results.
1. Cheating on certification exams
Surprise: More than one third of responders do feel that using "brain dump" training materials is unethical, even though doing so could get some vendor certifications revoked. (By "brain dump" we mean study materials from unauthorised training agencies that feature actual exam questions and answers.)
2. Cheating on certification exams
72% of respondents think that IT professionals use brain dump materials on a somewhat regular-to-frequent basis but only 12% have ever directly witnessed someone cheating on a certification exam.
3. Buying fake gear
A whopping 87% of respondents say that buying fake gear, gear labelled as if it was manufactured by a particular vendor, is unethical. Unlike buying a fake Rolex watch, or fake designer clothing, fake gear carries with it risks ranging from faulty performance to malware.
4. Buying fake gear
Most respondents think that it's rare, practically unheard of, for their fellow IT professionals to be choosing to buy fake gear. Only 6% say they have ever directly witnessed a transaction where fake gear was purchased and 27% said they think IT professionals never buy it (at least knowingly). This behaviour garnered the highest percentage of "never" answers of any in the survey.
Vendors and authorised dealers often characterise used equipment dealers as shady sources of fake gear. Used equipment dealers beg to differ. They claim they validate the authenticity of the gear they resell and that they are reputable. Most IT professionals believe them. Three quarters of IT professionals feel that it is ethically OK to buy used network gear from dealers that are not unauthorised representatives of the vendor, otherwise known as the "gray market."
With few IT professionals concerned about the risk of unintentionally buying fake gear from used equipment dealers, 61% of respondents say that patronising the so-called "gray" market is considered somewhat routine to fairly common.
While buying fake gear is clearly considered unethical, and buying used "gray market" gear is thought to be generally OK, respondents were split on the ethics of buying new gear from unauthorised dealers. Dealers that sell new gear, but haven't earned the vendor's seal of approval, are labeled as the "black market" by some in the industry. Slightly less than half of respondents say that patronising these dealers is unethical, with the majority report they had no qualms about the practice.
With 57% of respondents OK with buying new gear from unauthorised dealers, it's not surprising that 48% thought that IT professionals patronized the black market "often" or "sometimes." Is it surprising that buying new network gear from a source not authorised by the manufacturer to sell it is considered ethical by so many IT professionals?
9. Compliance with software licences
In this day of freely distributed software and super complex licence schemes, how much responsibility do IT professionals feel over compliance? A lot. A whopping 89% said it was unethical for an IT employee to make the company fall out of compliance with software licence agreements. This includes such common circumstances as an admin adding new clients to a server without new client licences.
10. Compliance with software licences
Given how universally IT professionals felt about the ethics of the issue, it was odd to see that 70% had witnessed other IT folks knowingly violate software licences. One respondent offered an explanation. He said he's witnessed business managers directing IT to do things they "would not consider ethical or legal. IT staff would be forced to do so by chain of command. While they might be able to complain to their boss, they could not refuse the order from the manager or executive to do what they were ordered to do they would have to face the consequences of refusal (i.e. you're fired)."
11. Illegal file sharing by employees
We expected that most IT professionals would take issue with employees using the corporate network to install unlicensed software or share DRM-protected files, and they did. More IT professionals agreed on this topic than any other, with 90% saying they thought that using the corporate network in this way was unethical, as was an IT department that remained unaware, or looks the other way.
12. Illegal file sharing by employees
While the idea of employees using the network to violate copyrights was universally frowned-upon, 69% of respondents said they've directly witnessed other IT professionals looking the other way when it happens. Because respondents reported similar statistics around software license compliance, we are led to conclude that the most common form of IT "cheating" involves ignoring software licences, including but not limited to, DRM restrictions.