High use of unlicensed software risks more cybersecurity loopholes



The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has recently published the findings of its 2016 survey “Seizing Opportunity Through License Compliance.” The survey was conducted on software installed globally in 2015 that was improperly licensed.

Key amongst the findings we that CIOs were aware that avoiding security threats is a critical reason for ensuring the software running in their networks is genuine and fully licensed. They also expressed concern on possible data loss associated with potential security incidents.

Almost half of all CIOs identified security threats from malware as a major threat posed by unlicensed software. They also indicated that an estimated 15% of their employees load software on the network without their knowledge. The survey however found that they were over-optimistic, with around double that amount—26% of employees— admitting that they are loading unauthorized software on office networks despite the fact that they were mostly aware of the security risk associated with unlicensed software.


The global survey found the Asia Pacific region haing the highest overall rate of unlicensed software at 61%. This was followed by Central and Eastern Europe at 58%, Middle East-Africa at 57%, Western Europe at 28% and North America the lowest at 17% percent.

BSA-BC-img3This year’s study finds 39 percent of software installed on computers around the world in 2015 is not properly licensed, representing only a modest decrease from 43 percent in BSA’s previous global study in 2013.

Even in certain critical industries, where much tighter control of the digital environment would be expected, unlicensed use was surprisingly high. The survey found the worldwide rate is 25 percent for the banking, insurance and securities industries.

“As the report underscores, it is critically important for a company to be aware of what software is on the company network,” said BSA |The Software Alliance President and CEO Victoria A. Espinel. “Many CIOs don’t know the full extent of software deployed on their systems or if that software is legitimate.”

BSA-BC-img2The survey, which canvassed consumers, IT managers and enterprise PC users, reinforces that use of unlicensed software is still high, and that individuals and companies are playing with fire when they use unlicensed software. This is due to the strong connection between cyberattacks and the use of unlicensed software. Where unlicensed software is in use, the likelihood of encountering malware dramatically goes up. And the cost of dealing with malware incidents can be staggering. In 2015 alone, for example, cyberattacks cost businesses over $400 billion.

The BSA report adds that companies can mitigate cybersecurity risks associated with unlicensed software by purchasing it from legitimate sources, and establishing software asset    management (SAM) programs. Organizations that effectively deploy SAM will know what’s on their network, and whether it is legitimate and licensed; will optimize their use of software by deploying software that’s the best fit for their businesses; will have policies and procedures in place that govern procurement, deployment, and retirement of software; and will have integrated SAM fully into their business.

By proactively combining effective SAM practices with increased employee education, companies can make themselves safer, more cost-effective and more efficient.

Seizing Opportunity Through License Compliance, BSA’s Global Software Survey which includes a breakdown of country-specific data, is available at www.bsa.org/globalstudy.

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