BSA: Over Half Of UK SMBs Have Used Illegal Software

Piracy © Atlaspix Shutterstock 2012

BSA warns small companies that buying counterfeit software could lead to something more troublesome than a fine

Business Software Alliance (BSA), an industry group representing software companies, has today published a report in which it claims the majority of UK’s small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have bought or downloaded illegal computer programs, leading in some cases to serious security issues.

The organisation said that 41 percent of small companies which paid for pirated applications believe they had their personal details used for identity theft, and 28 percent might have had their bank accounts raided as a result.

Horror stories

After a survey of 250 small businesses, BSA found that 33 percent of respondents which bought pirated software had additional money debited from their account, and 41 percent said that the products were delivered late, or not delivered at all.

CD, DVD and Pirate Flag, concept of Piracy © Feng Yu - FotoliaDespite this, nearly a quarter of small businesses said they would consider buying illegal software if they thought it would save them money. The organisation also discovered that one in five small businesses have used a ‘key generator’ to fake their licenses.

“The practice of downloading illegal software amongst small businesses is clearly widespread. The research suggests that a large number of UK businesses have an unclear understanding of what constitutes illegal software use, at best; and a blatant disrespect for copyright law and business ethics, at worst,” commented Michala Wardell, committee chair at BSA UK.

However, there are still some law-abiding enterpreneurs out there: the survey also found that about half of SMBs replaced the illegal software once it was discovered, and 27 percent later paid for a legal software key.

“It’s encouraging to see that many of these businesses have taken action to address the error, often at their own expense. But to avoid undue costs and security risks, businesses need to be more vigilant about where they buy their software from in the future,” said Wardell.

A part of the problem might stem from the fact that many SMBs don’t have proper license management solutions in place. In the survey, 54 percent of companies admitted they don’t have procurement records for all of the software they use, despite the fact that these companies spend an average of £17,000 on programs.

“In many cases, it might seem easier to just press download, than ask too many questions. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case. Small businesses are leaving themselves open to security threats, liability claims and more. While we strive to bring down dishonest traders, we rely upon businesses to take proper precautions when purchasing their software,” said Handley Brustad, joint lead officer for Intellectual Property at the Trading Standards Institute.

Earlier this year, BSA claimed that on average, half of all PC users worldwide are software pirates.

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