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Unlicensed Software Could Make You A Target Of Cyber Attacks

09/06/2016 8:37 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Companies leave themselves exposed to significant cyber risk by not addressing the use of unlicensed software on their computer networks. According to the Global Software Survey by BSA|The Software Alliance, many Chief Information Officers (CIOs) simply don't know how much software employees are installing on company networks. CIOs estimate that 15% of their employees load software on the network without their company's knowledge -- however, nearly double that percentage of workers say they are loading software on the network that their company doesn't know about.

A big related problem is that unlicensed software has a strong positive connection with the introduction of malware. Where unlicensed software is in use, the likelihood of encountering malware dramatically goes up.

Even just one successful cyber attack "can do serious harm to a company's reputation and credibility..."

This is a mistake companies can't afford to make. Cyber attacks cost businesses more than $400 billion in 2015. And in addition to the potentially devastating financial impact, enterprises can suffer damage to their reputation and declining customer confidence. Even just one successful cyber attack "can do serious harm to a company's reputation and credibility," notes the 2016 Symantec Internet Security Threat Report. Customer information may be put at risk and proprietary business information may be stolen by hackers. In addition, the impact from a reputational standpoint can be significant and long lasting.

According to the new BSA survey, computer users in India access unlicensed software at a relatively high rate, despite the link between cyber attacks and illegitimate software. In India the percentage of software installed on computers that was not properly licensed was at 58%, a two-point decrease compared with the prior study in 2013.

In India the percentage of software installed on computers that was not properly licensed was at 58%...

At a global level, the survey found that although trends have improved marginally, 39% of software installed on computers globally was not properly licensed. This represents only a modest decrease from 43% in BSA's previous global study in 2013.

In short, unlicensed software remains a major issue.

The good news, the report emphasizes, is that companies can mitigate cyber security risks associated with unlicensed software by purchasing it from legitimate sources, and establishing an effective software asset management (SAM) program.

[C]ompanies can mitigate cyber security risks associated with unlicensed software by purchasing it from legitimate sources, and establishing an effective software asset management (SAM) program.

SAM programs are essential. They help companies properly manage software to ensure continuous compliance. They minimize exposure to risks and maximize the benefit companies derive from this critically important asset. Organizations that effectively deploy SAM have an inventory of what's operating on their network. They have policies and practices for purchasing, deploying, updating, and retiring software.

An effective SAM program has four key steps:

• Step 1 is for organizations to ascertain what software is deployed on their networks, and how much of that software is legitimate and properly licensed.

• Step 2 is for organizations to align current and future business needs with the right software and the right licensing model.

• Step 3 is to establish policies and procedures that ensure that SAM is part of the IT lifecycle of a business.

• Step 4 is to integrate SAM into the organization's business processes.

As the global survey reinforces, by proactively combining effective SAM with increased employee education, companies are able to seize the opportunity to make themselves safer, more cost-effective, and more efficient.

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