Do you know what’s on your employees’ work computers? Are you sure? A study by Microsoft and IDC found that lots of IT managers — no offense — pretty much don’t have a clue.
While 65% of IT managers say that rogue software poses serious risks, only 38% think it’s being used in their organizations. However, an estimated 57% of employees install unauthorized software on company computers, and over two-thirds of that software brings viruses and other malware along with it.
Furthermore, much of this software clearly violates license terms and conditions.
There a few categories of unauthorized software that are most common in the workplace: personal software brought in from home, games, and pirated software.
When Employees Install Personal Software on Work Computers
Your employee may have legally bought and installed software on his home computer, but when he installs it on his work computer, you have a problem. Not only is he almost certainly violating his license agreement, if you allow the software to be installed on a work computer, you’re complicit. What is your IT asset management team going to say when a software auditor finds a home version of his company’s software installed on a work computer?
Clear communication with employees is the key to preventing these problems. Employees should feel comfortable saying to their supervisor or IT manager, “Hey, I installed X on my home computer, and it really helps me [manage documents / handle bookkeeping / edit graphics]. Could I order a copy for work?”
Games on Work Computers
Let’s suppose an employee likes to spend the occasional lunch hour playing a game. Maybe she was conscientious enough to get a separate legal copy specifically for work and isn’t violating any licensing agreements. Should she be allowed to keep it on her work computer?
There’s no clear answer here. Obviously, if she’s playing when she should be working, it needs to go. Installs that violate licensing agreements need to be gone too. Your company should have a clear policy on recreational software, whether it’s “No games, period” or “You must show it’s an authorized copy and you only play during breaks.” More importantly, you have to enforce the policy consistently for it to have any effect and to prevent resentment over special treatment.
This falls in the “Well, duh” category. Pirated software on company computers can lead to all sorts of problems. For one thing, it’s illegal, and if you’re found out, your company could face serious legal consequences. For another, it may bring viruses along with it. The Microsoft IDC study mentioned above predicts that businesses will spend around $114 billion in 2013 dealing with the security issues caused by pirated software, and that’s before potential data losses are factored in. Your company’s policy on disciplinary action for using pirated software on company computers should be communicated to employees from their first day on the job, and it should be reiterated regularly. Disciplinary action must be enforced consistently to keep pirated software off company computers. The risks with pirated software are simply too great.
Preventing Problems Through Risk Detection
Samanage, a leader in cloud IT service desk software, has a powerful risk detection engine that identifies risks in real time so that you can take action before illegal software can affect your business, its computer network, or its reputation. If someone tries to download an illegal license, you can be notified instantly so you can put a stop to it. Samanage risk detection features let you automatically monitor your entire network for unauthorized software usage so you can prevent these expensive and damaging problems from occurring.
At Samanage, we believe that the best way to solve many IT problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place.