Let’s say that you have an employee who wants to do some good for your business and save your IT some cash on a piece of business software. They find a “free” version of it on the Internet, thinking they have found you a bargain deal. Little do you know that there is an agency out there that’s specifically looking for businesses like yours that don’t keep track of their software licensing, just to make a quick buck off of copyright infringement.
This organization–the Software Alliance (BSA)–was founded by Microsoft back in 1988 in an attempt to preserve intellectual property of member companies. Its initial goal was to put a halt to copyright infringement, especially in more recent years as pirating software has grown more popular. Only recently has the BSA started using some rather underhanded tactics to find unlicensed software on business systems.
One of these tactics tries to entice employees (or former employees), to report instances of software licensing fraud. In other words, they try to get your employees to report any suspicious software handling by promising complete and total anonymity and a cash reward. It’s a tempting offer for employees who might feel downtrodden about their work, and a report from one of these workers could be condemning for your company. The BSA runs ads across social media looking for whistleblowers – it’s not like a former employee needs to look very hard to find them.
But what if you don’t know that you’re using unlicensed software? Surely that makes a difference, right? Well… no. Being unaware won’t help your case, and there’s no excuse for using unlicensed software. Therefore, you need to ask yourself whether you’re willing to risk a situation like this potentially costing your business.
One of the best ways you can keep your business safe from the BSA is by restricting user permissions on your company devices. By this, we mean allowing only your IT department to install applications on your company’s computers. This keeps your employees from finding questionable software licenses on the Internet and implementing them without IT approval, effectively eliminating a big risk factor for your organization.
The need for software licensing documentation cannot be expressed enough. You need to be ready for an audit at any given time, as they can (like many business matters) be unpredictable. Therefore, what we recommend is that you reach out to an unbiased third-party provider for a comprehensive network audit to look for unlicensed software. The goal is to find any instances of unlicensed software so that, in the event of an unexpected audit, you aren’t caught red-handed–even if it’s not your fault.