Will pirates sink your business?

Will pirates sink your business?

Sharon Jandu, director of business development & partnerships for the Yorkshire Asian Business Association, offers advice on data security

According to a survey conducted by the Association of International Accountants, nearly 80% of small and medium businesses feel they don’t know enough about data security and intellectual property (IP). This is a problem, because the assets that really make a business ‘tick’ are the non-physical ones, like the way you use your know-how and the software and data that support it.

The crucial first step is to have a clear view of the assets you own and use in your business. Some will be unique to you; others, you will buy or use under license. Both are types of IP.
Every business needs to work (or ‘sweat’) assets like these to the full, especially in these difficult economic times.

Knowing what IP your company uses is critical to the successful running of any organisation. Software piracy is a growing issue across the world, with pirating in developing economies doubling in the past five years. 33% of small UK businesses are under licensed and installing software on to more devices than their agreement allows, and being under licensed is considered an infringement of intellectual property.

A new study by the International Data Corporation and the National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed a current trend which sees cybercriminals employ malware embedded within PCs that are running pirated software, which are then sold on to unsuspecting businesses and high street consumers. The investigation looked at 203 computers bought in the United States, India, China, Brazil, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Ukraine and Mexico, all of which had been pre-infected before being sold with malware such as worms, Trojans, hack tools and adware.

Knowing what you use, also known as ‘software asset management’ (SAM) can help you control costs and business risks for a healthier financial position.

It can also help your business to optimise existing investments so that you can do more with what you already have, and grow.

So take an inventory to find out what you have already and get organised, by reviewing and bringing together all of your licenses and documentation. Create policies and procedures, establish new standards and guidelines for all phases of the software lifecycle, maintain your SAM plan, and keep it current through spot checks, inventories and employee training.

Hackers and virus distributors are a constant annoyance and worry to businesses of all sizes. But today, there’s no reason why start-ups and SMEs shouldn’t be able to protect their PCs, devices and data from these threats.

It is estimated that 64% of illegally licensed customers experienced security issues in the UK, and 73% of organisations illegally licensed are more likely to have loss of sensitive data.

Despite the risks, many firms are still failing to secure their assets with robust IT security. A number of surveys last year hit the headlines with figures claiming that in excess of 60% of small businesses suffer some form of successful malware attack over any 12 month period.
While many smaller businesses may be tempted to use unlicensed security software, or those offered for “free”, such a decision could prove more than costly.

Such freebies can prove the ultimate false economy and can sometimes be the very way in which pirates carry malicious software into company systems.

For peace of mind, check that free or cut price software is provided by legitimate companies directly, rather than through third parties.

In many ways it seems that we are all living the technology dream. The advent of the internet, then the web and the ever faster evolution of services and devices have transformed the way people live their lives. We live in a period where technology is all
around us, where it has become a natural, normal part of our every-day lives, the questions business should ask is ‘is my company making the most of it all?’

Small businesses cannot put off installing cyber-security any longer. It has become as normal as hiring an accountant or doing your taxes. Failing to have the proper measures in place could at best cause your business to stall in its future growth, and, at worse, spell the end of it all together as people begin to mistrust you with their data and ultimately their custom.

Today’s career cybercriminals are more than shady individuals in darkened rooms, with piracy representing big business for those with the knowledge. Make sure you stay one step ahead and get protected.