A friend of mine, along with ~10 of their colleagues, recently received an email from the IT department saying the department is investigating those students for using two pieces of cracked software. Apparently, the vendor contacted the university about this.
My friend was asked NOT to remove the software from his computer. Moreover, IT staff checked his computer without him being around (privacy breach?). They were emailed and asked several questions as well like: "Do you have the license?, do you have the software?, and is there an IT staff member overseeing your computer?"
They are now waiting to hear back.
My questions are:
How serious is this based on the above information?
What are the potential consequences?
Is it possible to get a fine for this?
Would there be any academic consequences?
Note: While using cracked software is obviously wrong, their research demanded using such software. The advisor knew this and allowed it to happen. So part of the responsibility should fall on the supervisor as well (my opinion).
Addition: This is a large North American university.