Unlicensed software – a worldwide problem

BSA’s Global software survey for 2015 has revealed that 39% of software around the world is not correctly licensed, down from 43% in 2013. When broken down by region this global figure shows some startling variations.

The worst region is Asia-Pacific at 61% (down from 62%), whilst the best is North America at 17%. Western Europe sits at the lower end with 28%, with the UK being under the regional average at 22% (down from 24% in 2013).

SAM on the increase

This percentage on its own does not give a true picture, as the value of the unlicensed software needs to be considered as well. For the US, this was reckoned to be $10 billion, whilst the UK is $1.3 billion. This is second only to France, in Europe, at $1.4 billion. Worldwide this figure is over $50 billion.

The drop in the use of unlicensed software in the UK has been influenced in part by factors such as the increasing market for cloud subscriptions and growing software asset management (SAM) adoption. These market trends were coupled with an increase in the number of legal settlements with UK companies found using unlicensed software.

Surprisingly, even in critical industries, the use of unlicensed software was high. For example, in the banking and insurance sector it was discovered that the rate was 25% worldwide.

Unlicensed software and security problems

It was estimated 15% of employees download software onto their company’s network without the company’s knowledge. Such activity greatly increases the likelihood of introducing malware to the company network. This has been proven to leave businesses open to devastating and costly cyberattacks. In 2015 alone, such attacks are reckoned to have cost businesses over $400 billion.

How to avoid this problem

Organizations can reduce the security risks of unlicensed software by firstly, ensuring all software is purchased from legitimate sources and secondly, establishing an in-house SAM program. Those businesses that effectively integrate SAM will have a better awareness of what is installed on their network and whether it is legitimate and licensed.

They will also be in a position to optimize their software deployment, and have policies and procedures in place for the procurement and retirement of software.

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