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Internet access enemy number one for software piracy

Increased employee access to the Internet has led to a significant rise in software piracy, according to the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) annual survey of UK Corporates, as employees download illegal software. To combat this growing crime, organisations are starting to fight back by monitoring exactly what employees are up to as they surf the net, with 80% of organisations now monitoring Internet use.

With 55% of organisations giving desktop Internet access to all employees and 38% of corporates expecting the percentage of software purchased on the Internet to increase over the next twelve months, the opportunity for downloading illegal software whether intentionally or not is huge. According to the survey 54% of IT professionals think the growth of e-Commerce is largely to blame for the lack of software compliance in UK organisations because it makes the management of licence ownership evidence even harder. This is supported by the fact that more than half of the respondents (54%) said they find it difficult to prove their organisation is software compliant.

Findings also revealed an increase in the perceived amount of pirated software in the UK. 83% of participants estimated 40% of software use in the UK to be pirated and some 71% of these believed the illegal software to have been purchased online with intent. This is surprising as 69% of respondents were aware of the high legal risk to their organisation in failing to be software compliant.

Other main findings show:

77% of organisations spend less than 4% of their total desktop budget on managing and controlling the use of software - indicating software compliance is not being taken as seriously as it should be bearing in mind the potential consequences of non-compliance.
69% of organisations spend less than 5 man days per month on software management – an alarming figure when more than 50% said they would currently find it difficult to prove their compliance. Yet they are obviously not taking adequate action to remedy the situation.
40% of companies still have no software management policy. This means the liability for IT compliance in those organisations rests solely with the company directors. If any employee is found to be using software illegally it is the company directors who face legal and financial penalties, not to mention damage to their organisation’s reputation.
51% think resellers have responsibility for ensuring licences are not mislaid or lost. This is a big misconception as the responsibility for accounting for licences rests entirely with the organisation using the software.
88% of organisations purchase software centrally – This shows some effort is being made to implement the controls necessary for achieving a compliant software environment and it enables the setting up of a properly managed software asset register.
76% have disciplinary procedures for employees misuse of the Internet However, with 40% having no formal policies and procedures in place they would find taking proper, legal disciplinary action against an employee who has misused the Internet almost impossible.
Richard Willmott, Head of FAST Corporate Services, comments: "Regulating employee email, Internet and software use isn't a big brother tactic in a negative sense. The bottom line is no company is immune from e-risk, the reality is that illegal software can not only result in costly litigation and liability for the CEO, it can also cost an organisation in terms of inefficiency and potential viruses and have a negative effect their organisation’s reputation.

"You cannot be present in every office every hour of the day to keep an eye on what employees are doing and you cannot expect employees to exercise sound judgement 100% of the time, therefore automated monitoring of Internet access makes smart business sense, particularly as 40% of companies surveyed provide no management policies to give employees guidance on what they can and can’t do."

There are two main ways pirated software enters an organisation. Firstly as employees increasingly work remotely and '24 by 7', there is a growing temptation to download illegal software that is required urgently when there is no IT manager around to provide the relevant licence. Secondly, with 90% of UK workers admitting to accessing the Internet for recreational purposes in company time, the chance of pirated software being downloaded accidentally whilst 'surfing not working' is high. This is on top of the traditional unlicensed software that is being used due to poor control regimes or lack of understanding.

This year's results show that organisations are starting to get clued up on the importance of monitoring Internet activity. 80% of respondents said they monitor the Internet, with 75% of these companies using automated monitoring as opposed to manual interaction - an increase of 15% on last years figures. Also, 72% of organisations will discipline employees with a verbal warning or dismissal if they are found to put their organisation at risk from software piracy.

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