News Column

Security fears deter software piracy

August 14, 2014

Staff Writer

The estimated commercial value of unlicensed software in SA is R4.11 billion, says BSA ? The Software Alliance.

The biggest deterrent to using unlicensed software is the fear of being hacked or having data stolen, which overrides concerns about breaking the law and infringing intellectual property rights of software vendors.

This is according to the latest BSA Global Software Survey, which found there has been a 1% decrease in the use of unlicensed software since 2011.

"Fewer South African companies are using unlicensed software, opting to avoid the numerous security threats associated with counterfeit software, but one in three copies of software installed on local PCs during 2013 was still not properly licensed. The estimated commercial value (locally) of the unlicensed software is a whopping R4.11 billion," says the BSA – The Software Alliance (

The BSA Global Software Survey is conducted every second year by market research firm IDC. This year, the study polled PC users in 34 markets, including nearly 22 000 consumer and business users and more than 2 000 IT managers.

Authors of the survey say fears over malicious code being added into pirated software is not unfounded, as 64% of global computer users cited unauthorised access by hackers as a top threat and 59% of respondents cited loss of data.

"Hopefully this drop signals the start of a downward trend," says Marius Haman, chairperson of the local committee of BSA – The Software Alliance and corporate attorney in the Digital Crimes Unit, Legal and Corporate Affairs for Microsoft Middle East and Africa.

"Compared to unlicensed products, properly licensed software offers computer users more peace of mind when it comes to operational efficiency and security. Corporate users and general PC users are starting to view this peace of mind as an important component of success in business."

Malicious adware

In a research whitepaper, entitled "The Dangerous World of Counterfeit and Pirated Software", the IDC found 78% of unlicensed software downloads included some form of tracking cookie or spyware installations. These install themselves on a user's PC and capture personal information that can be exploited by cyber criminals.

The IDC reports that, when it comes to Trojans and other malicious adware, 27% of downloaded counterfeit software incorporated these, which – at best – threaten a computer's performance and may even cause it to crash, leading to costs in terms of data and productivity losses. "In the worst case scenario, the malicious software may also perform actions that are not authorised by the PC user, like data deletion or copying of corporate information."

Often malicious software also prevents the installation of patches that Microsoft and other software vendors send to fix any vulnerability that hackers exploit, causing the PC to remain vulnerable, says the IDC.

Licensing questions

In spite of the potential damage unlicensed software might cause to PC systems and networks, less than half of IT managers are very confident their company's software is properly licensed, notes the BSA Global Software Survey. Moreover, it found, only 35% of businesses worldwide have written policies put in place that expressly require the use of properly licensed software.

"Business should ensure that they only purchase software from reputable companies, as a seller proposing to violate copyright law could just as easily view your credit card data or personal information as another source of revenue that can be sold to identity thieves," warns Dale Waterman, who leads the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit in the Middle East and Africa region.

Waterman says the use of unlicensed software can easily be deterred within the business environment through the establishment of a formal policy on licensed software use. South African organisations have to consider implementing more robust software asset management programmes that ensure adequate controls are in place to provide a full view into what is installed on a network, and help to avoid the occurrence of security and operational risks.

According to recent reports, the BSA found that while emerging markets account for 56% of all PCs in use, they also account for 73% of software piracy.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: ITWeb

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