Illegal software downloads prolific in small businesses

More than half (52 per cent) of small businesses in the UK have either bought or downloaded illegal computer software, according to research from BSA | The Software Alliance.

The findings reveal the extent of illegal software use amongst small businesses, with many running into problems as a result. These include:

  • being unable to contact the seller
  • suffering from identity theft
  • having additional money debited from their account
  • having credit cards cloned.

Nearly nine out of ten (88 per cent) also believe that using illegal software leaves them open to liability concerns.

The purchase of illegal software appears to be premeditated for a large number of these businesses, said the BSA. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) admitted that they would be inclined to buy illegal software from a website if they thought it would save them money.

Alternatively, many small businesses unknowingly buy or download illegal software to save money, but will spend more money replacing the software in the long run - meaning businesses are often paying for the software twice.

Michala Wardell, UK committee chair of BSA, said the research indicated that illegal downloads amongst the businesses community is 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 worse," she said.

"It's encouraging to see that many of these businesses have taken action to address the error, often at their own expense."

The BSA is urging small businesses to avoid unnecessary costs and security risks by being aware of the tell-tale signs on websites that may be selling illegal software. The signs include:

  • no encrypted payment
  • a large difference in price
  • no UK contact details, such as telephone number and postal address
  • the sale of software licence keys
  • the option to pay by instant money transfer.

Wardell added: "As things stand, too many small businesses are exposing themselves to unnecessary hazards."