Yarrrr, the Business Software Alliance reckons piracy be down, me hearties

Report: dodgy software still accounts for beeeellions of lost cash and malware aplenty

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has put out a report showing that while the use of unlicensed software is dropping, it is due to a fear of malware rather than a worry of a visit from the lawyers.

The global survey (PDF), conducted in conjunction with IDC, was based on a sample size of 22,500 from 110 national and region economies and shows a gradual decline in the rates of unlicensed software between 2011 and 2017.

Calculating the actual value of the software concerned is more problematic, with the figures based on the average unit cost in the region for the year surveyed. Price hikes, for example, can make the corresponding drop in value less than the decline in licence violations, as can a jump in install-base.

Some countries, such as Israel, actually saw increases in the value of unlicensed software (from $161m to $165m between 2015 and 2017) while the rate of unlicensed installations dropped from 29 to 27 per cent.

In a result that will stagger no one, China almost topped the charts in terms of value, clocking up $6.8bn worth of dodgy software over 66 per cent of installations (down from 77 per cent). The US, while apparently the most well behaved with only 15 per cent of software installs unlicensed, trumped China with an estimated $8.6bn failing to make it into the pockets of impoverished vendors.

Other notables are India with 56 per cent of installations unlicensed, costing companies $2.5bn and Russia sent to Central and Eastern Europe’s naughty step with 62 per cent of installs from nefarious sources, leaving hard-pressed software businesses poorer to the tune of $1.3bn, dwarfing the rest of the region.

Finally, Western Europe looks at first glance to be relatively well behaved, although France, Germany and the UK hold the top three spots with $2bn, $1.6bn and $1.4bn owed respectively despite getting their unlicensed rates down to 20, 32 and 21 per cent. Greece, with 61 per cent of software unlicensed, remains the undisputed bad boy even if the actual value is only worth $173m.

Dodgy discs and dirty software

The research points to worries about malware making an appearance following the installation of software from dubious sources as the major factor in the small drop (two per cent since 2015) of unlicensed installs globally.

54 per cent of CIOs listed security concerns as the main benefit for licence compliance, with fears of ransomware, unauthorised access, outages and, ironically, theft all making an appearance.

Unsurprisingly, the BSA drew a correlation between the use of unlicensed software and a country’s malware infection rate, pointing to malware attacks that crippled an estimated 40,000 Chinese institutions, and attacks in Russia broadly due to “pirated out-of-date software” hitting the Health Ministry and Russian Railways.

The report, unsurprisingly, mentions the cloud, which it suggests offers better value and flexibility than on-premise solutions. Having users pay a subscription to access the service along with the ability to switch off the lights if payment is not forthcoming will also be attractive from the vendor’s point of view.

The research goes on to highlight the Equifax breach, which arguably had little to do with unlicensed software but more to do with a lack of an adequate asset management system and pisspoor IT procedures. Of course, properly implementing such tracking would, as well as ensuring systems are patched and up to date, assist with licence compliance.

Something that would make the members of the BSA very, very happy indeed. ®

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