Unlicensed Software Least Prevalent in North America

Among the risks associated with unlicensed software, 64 percent of users cited unauthorized access by hackers as a top concern, according to the BSA.

unlicensed software and IT security

A whopping 43 percent of the software installed on personal computers globally in 2013 was not properly licensed, despite the fact that computer users around the world cite the risk of security threats from malware as the top reason not to use unlicensed software, according to the BSA Global Software Survey.

The commercial value of unlicensed PC software installations totaled $62.7 billion globally in 2013, the survey found, as emerging economies where unlicensed software use is most prevalent continued to account for a growing majority of all PCs in service.

The chief reason computer users around the world cite for not using unlicensed software is avoiding security threats from malware--among their specific concerns were intrusions by hackers and loss of data.

While North America continues to have the lowest regional rate of unlicensed software installations at 19 percent, this still constitutes a significant commercial value of nearly $10.9 billion, the report noted.

In Western Europe, the rate dropped three points to 29 percent in 2013 with a commercial value of $12.8 billion.

The BSA Global Software Survey is conducted every other year for BSA by IT research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), which this year polled computer users in 34 markets, including nearly 22,000 consumer and business PC users and more than 2,000 IT managers.

Specifically, among the risks associated with unlicensed software, 64 percent of users cited unauthorized access by hackers as a top concern and 59 percent cited loss of data.

"Most people don’t know what is installed on their systems. That needs to change," BSA President and CEO Victoria Espinel said in a statement. "There are common-sense steps managers and administrators can take to make sure their organizations are using genuine, properly licensed software."

The region with the highest overall rate of unlicensed PC software installations in 2013 was Asia-Pacific, at 62 percent--a 2 percentage-point increase from 2011, with the commercial value of unlicensed installations reaching $21 billion.

"Unlicensed software use is an organizational governance issue—and this study shows there is a clear need for improvement," Espinel said. "There are basic steps any company can take to ensure it is fully compliant, like establishing a formal policy on licensed software use and maintaining careful records."

Central and Eastern Europe had the next-highest rate of unlicensed software installations at 61 percent, followed by Latin America at 59 percent and the Middle East and Africa, also at 59 percent.

"Companies also should consider implementing more robust software asset management programs that follow internationally accepted guidelines. These SAM programs can deliver substantial value by ensuring adequate controls are in place to provide a full view into what is installed on a network," Espinel said. "That helps organizations avoid security and operational risks, and it ensures they have the right number of licenses for their users."