Unlicensed Software: Reducing Risks and Improving Compliance [Global Survey]

From personal to business computers, unlicensed software is installed on devices across the globe, leaving more and more users at risk of being exposed to malware. 

To better understand the correlation between unlicensed software and its impacts, BSA conducted a Global Software Survey in partnership with IDC. 

In this blog, we'll touch on some of the study’s key findings and offer tips your organization can use to improve software management. 

The Correlation Between Malware and Unlicensed Software

While the devastating impacts of unlicensed software are clear, the usage of it is still widespread, accounting for 37% of software installed on personal computers. The higher the rate of unlicensed software use, the higher the likelihood of a malware infection.

Statistical analysis confirms this link. In countries around the globe, there is a strong and consistent correlation between using unlicensed software and encountering malware. In fact, a country’s unlicensed software rate is a reliable predictor of a country’s malware infection rate. 

Not only are malware threats possible, but they are occurring at an all-time high — with eight new threats appearing every second of every day. As the threats grow in frequency, they also grow in impact — the most significant being cost. It can run a company more than $10,000 per infected computer and cost companies worldwide nearly $359 billion a year.

The Risks of Relying on Unlicensed Software

Let's take the impact of unlicensed software on China, for example, where 66% of software is unlicensed. The implementation of unlicensed software has led to devastating malware attacks throughout the country, affecting nearly 40,000 Chinese institutions. The attacks crippled prestigious research institutions like Tsinghua University, halted the electronic payment systems throughout the country at PetroChina’s gas stations, shut down ATMs run by the Bank of China, and impacted the operations of major companies like China Telecom and Hainan Airlines, to name a few.

Like China, Russia is also familiar with the devastating impacts of malware attacks. The Global Software Survey found that 62% of software in Russia is unlicensed. As a result, in 2017 the Russian Health Ministry, the state-run Russian Railways, the Interior Ministry, and the telecommunications company Megafon all fell victim to attacks. 

The majority of software deployed on personal computers across six regions (Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Latin America) is unlicensed. Organizations around the globe now face a one-in-three chance of encountering malware when they obtain or install an unlicensed software package or buy a computer with unlicensed software.

Decrease Cyber Risk with Software Asset Management

In the era of heightened cybersecurity risk, organizations must assess their network and eliminate unlicensed software. In doing so, companies that implement strong measures to improve the way they manage software can achieve significant growth.

CIOs understand the need for more secure software to reduce security risks, boost their bottom line, decrease downtime, and increase their opportunity. Through our research, we found that 54% of CIOs use fully-licensed software to avoid security risks. They also reported concerns with unauthorized access to their network, system outages and downtime, and the time and cost of disinfecting their network as primary reasons for adopting licensed software.

Organizations can take meaningful steps today to improve software management. Studies show that organizations can achieve as much as 30% savings in annual software costs by implementing a robust SAM and software license optimization program.

SAM not only helps CIOs ensure that software running on their network is legitimate and fully licensed, but it can also help decrease debilitating cyber-risks, improve productivity, reduce downtime, centralize license management, and reduce costs.

To learn more about the pervasive, costly, and debilitating dangers of unlicensed software, as well as how to protect your organization from risk, download the full Global Survey from BSA Verafirm and IDC.

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