Endpoint
7/2/2013
04:47 PM
Doug Landoll
Doug Landoll
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

License To Ill

Unlicensed software exposes SMBs to lawsuits, viruses, and unwelcome guests

Computer software accelerates the ability of businesses to communicate, collaborate, design, build, and deliver. Expensive as some of these products may be, it's hard to imagine getting business done without them. While SMBs are always looking to cut costs and maintain effectiveness, shortcutting the software licensing process can have dangerous consequences from a lack of software support to potentially company-ending fines and security holes.

Although not on the top of the list of SMB owner concerns, the issue of unlicensed software is critical. Unlicensed software is much more of a problem than many would believe. It is said that 20 percent of software products installed is unlicensed or counterfeit. Moreover, the SMB space seems the most impacted by efforts to stem the practice of stealing software IP. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is an organization that has been given legal authority from many software vendors to investigate reported instances of software theft (mostly reported from ex-employees who get a reward from the BSA). In a recent study, the BSA reported that 90 percent of the monies collected from such fines and lawsuits came from small businesses. Now, most SMB owners or directors would not knowing install or look the other way for such an important issue, but the unlicensed software still creeps its way into your organization in three ways:

1) Lack of clear policies and oversight. Few organizations make it clear that the business will not put up with intellectual property theft and unauthorized software installed on their systems. Unclear policy and direction lead to a degradation of culture and permissiveness that leave the business open to such vulnerabilities.

2) Sloppy asset management. Many times computers moved from one department to another simply retain the software installed on it, whether needed or not. After just a few moves the organization is using more licenses than it planned or paid for.

3) IT service provider shortcuts. Many IT service providers use their knowledge of how to install multiple copies of vendor software to cheaply provide software suites to all company workstations or servers. Lack of follow-up on the proper licensing process turns those installed instances into unlicensed software.

This is not just a legal issue, but also a major security issue. In addition to instilling a poor company culture, illegal software can contain malware or, left unpatched, lead to damaging security holes. A recent study found that more than one-third of downloaded pirated software contained malware. As for "legitimate" copies of software that simply are not registered, these installations have not access to critical patches, so they are just a "patch Tuesday" away from inviting the world into your systems.

To protect the businesses they have built, SMBs need to ensure they respect intellectual property and ensure they have legitimate and licensed software.

1) Have an independent software license review. Independence here is paramount. Such a review from your IT provider or department gives little to no assurance.

2) Update/create policies to reflect intellectual property protection, reporting of violations, and prohibition of unauthorized software.

Doug Landoll, CEO of Assero Security Doug Landoll is an expert in information security for the SMB market with over 20 years experience securing businesses and government agencies. He has written several information security books and dozens of articles for national publications. He has founded and ran four ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Must Reads - September 25, 2014
Dark Reading's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of identity and access management. Learn about access control in the age of HTML5, how to improve authentication, why Active Directory is dead, and more.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2012-5485
Published: 2014-09-30
registerConfiglet.py in Plone before 4.2.3 and 4.3 before beta 1 allows remote attackers to execute Python code via unspecified vectors, related to the admin interface.

CVE-2012-5486
Published: 2014-09-30
ZPublisher.HTTPRequest._scrubHeader in Zope 2 before 2.13.19, as used in Plone before 4.3 beta 1, allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary HTTP headers via a linefeed (LF) character.

CVE-2012-5487
Published: 2014-09-30
The sandbox whitelisting function (allowmodule.py) in Plone before 4.2.3 and 4.3 before beta 1 allows remote authenticated users with certain privileges to bypass the Python sandbox restriction and execute arbitrary Python code via vectors related to importing.

CVE-2012-5488
Published: 2014-09-30
python_scripts.py in Plone before 4.2.3 and 4.3 before beta 1 allows remote attackers to execute Python code via a crafted URL, related to createObject.

CVE-2012-5489
Published: 2014-09-30
The App.Undo.UndoSupport.get_request_var_or_attr function in Zope before 2.12.21 and 3.13.x before 2.13.11, as used in Plone before 4.2.3 and 4.3 before beta 1, allows remote authenticated users to gain access to restricted attributes via unspecified vectors.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In our next Dark Reading Radio broadcast, we’ll take a close look at some of the latest research and practices in application security.