What Are You Risking By Using Unlicensed Software?

4 years ago | by Chris O'Brien

Unlicensed software

According to new research by BSA | The Software Alliance, unlicensed software raises alarming risks of cyber attacks.

In their 2018 Global Software Survey, it was found that while the use of unlicensed software is slightly down (2 percent from 2016), it is still accounting for 37 percent of software installed on computers. Last year alone, the BSA settled 28 cases for the use of unlicensed software in Australia (this is twice the amount of cases in 2016). These settlements cost businesses a combined amount of $347,000 in damages, and with the Notifiable Data Breach (NDB) scheme now in effect, now’s the time for businesses to start thinking seriously about the implications of having unlicensed software. Let’s explore the risks…

  1. Malware Infections: Unlicensed software, or software downloaded from an illegitimate source, may contain malware which puts an organisation at significant risk of an attack, resulting in anything from downtime, to monetary loss, data loss and more.
  2. Data Breaches: It is now more important than ever for businesses to put effort into protecting their data from breaches given the recent NDB legislation. In using unlicensed software, not only are you vulnerable to malware (as stated above), you’re also likely not receiving patch updates which strengthen security and address areas of exposed weakness, meaning you’re exposing your business as an easy target to cyber criminals.
  3. Fines: This point is two-fold; every business caught using unlicensed software not only has to purchase genuine software licenses for ongoing use, they’re also slammed with copyright infringement damages. On top of this, if your unlicensed software results in a cyber-attack that leads to data loss, you’ll could also be hit with fines from the NDB legislation, furthering implications with monetary loss, and reputational damage.

The recent report published by the BSA found that the businesses who were found guilty of using unlicensed software had to pay settlements of approximately $40,000 each (small businesses included). The BSA also entices the public to report any unlawful copying or use of unlicensed software, with rewards of up to $20,000 to those who disclose accurate information.

In order to stay on top of your software licensing, you should consider investing in a Software Asset Management (SAM) tool – this is an inventory and management tool capable of collecting the data points within your organisation to gain a clear picture of the software you have deployed. Taking action here is important as the potential consequences faced by those found using unlicensed software far outweighs the cost of SAM tools. As a first point of call, you can also ensure your software licensing is up to date and accurate to your number of users by checking in with your IT Provider. Better safe than sorry – especially in this case.

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