Computer users in South Africa are using unlicensed software at an alarming rate, despite the link between unlicensed software and cyberattacks, according to the new Global Software Survey from BSA   The Software Alliance.
The survey, Seizing Opportunity Through License Compliance, found that in South Africa the percent of software installed on computers that was not properly licensed was 33 percent. This represents a one-point decrease compared with BSA’s prior findings in 2013.
South Africa is performing well compared to the rest of the region of Middle East and Africa, which has a rate of 57% unlicensed software use, falling by two points from 59% in 2013. The rate of access has been influenced in part by important trends under way across the continent. The driving force for the drop in the rate was the decrease of the consumer share of PC shipments,  enterprise oriented IP protection efforts, and a migration to subscription-based software.
“We are happy to see the rate of unlicensed software use has dropped again. We believe this progress is in part a result of the successful cooperation between the South African government and the software industry, including the recent joint initiative between BSA, the Companies & Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) and DALRO on raising awareness among South African companies on intellectual property and driving software license compliance,” says Billa Coetsee, chair of the South African ccommittee of BSA.
“However, as the report highlights, the value of unlicensed software in use in South Africa is $274-million, which is very high. We will have to continue building the success of our recent initiatives with government, other stakeholders and the business community.”
The survey, which canvassed consumers, IT managers, and enterprise PC users, reinforces that use of unlicensed software is still high, and that individuals and companies are playing with fire when they use unlicensed software. This is due to the strong connection between cyberattacks and the use of unlicensed software.
Where unlicensed software is in use, the likelihood of encountering malware dramatically goes up. And the cost of dealing with malware incidents can be staggering. In 2015 alone, for example, cyberattacks cost businesses over $400-billion.
“As the report underscores, it is critically important for a company to be aware of what software is on the company network,” said BSA  The Software Alliance President and CEO Victoria Espinel. “Many CIOs don’t know the full extent of software deployed on their systems or if that software is legitimate.”
Among the other findings:
* 39% of software installed on computers around the world in 2015 was not properly licensed, representing only a modest decrease from 43% in BSA’s previous global rate  in 2013.
* Even in certain critical industries, unlicensed use was surprisingly high. The survey found the worldwide rate is 25% for the banking, insurance and securities industries.
* CIOs estimate that 15% of their employees load software on the network without their knowledge. But they are significantly underestimating the problem; nearly double that amount – 26% of employees – say they are loading unauthorised software on the network.
Despite these numbers, the findings show a keen awareness of the problem:
* CIOs said their highest concern was loss of data associated with such a security incident.
* CIOs also said that avoiding security threats is a critical reason for ensuring the software running in their networks is legitimate and fully licensed.
* In the broader survey of employees, 60% cited the security risk associated with unlicensed software as a critical reason to use legitimate, fully licensed software.
The report adds that companies can mitigate the cybersecurity risks of unlicensed software by ensuring all software is purchased from legitimate sources and establishing an in-house software asset management (SAM) program. Organisations that effectively deploy SAM will know what’s on their network, and whether it is legitimate and licensed; will optimise their use of software by deploying software that’s the best fit for their businesses; will have policies and procedures in place that govern procurement, deployment, and retirement of software; and will have integrated SAM fully into their business.