More than half of UK SMBs have used illegal software, according to research from the Business Software Alliance (BSA), with 88 per cent of those in question conceding they have opened themselves up to problems such as lost revenue and health and safety breaches.
The research, which was carried out by Vanson Bourne for the BSA, questioned IT decision makers in 250 UK small businesses with between 25 and 250 employees.
Of those admitting to have used illegal software, 41 per cent believed their details were used in identity theft while 28 per cent said they had had their credit card cloned. One third had money debited from their accounts and 41 per cent said the product they attempted to purchase illegally did not arrive on time or at all.
The BSA puts the number of small firms using dodgy software down to a combination of "blatant disrespect for copyright law" and ignorance.
Michala Wardell, UK committee chairwoman of the BSA, said: "The practice of downloading illegal software among small businesses is clearly 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."
Of those caught with illegal software, more than half replaced it with a legitimate copy, but 10 per cent continued to run it.
The BSA added that risking getting caught out is a false economy as having to buy a replacement product costs more in the long term.
Wardell added: "It is encouraging to see that many of these businesses have taken action to address the error, often at their own expense. But to avoid undue costs and security risks, businesses need to be more vigilant about where they buy their software from in the future.
"As things stand, too many small businesses are exposing themselves to unnecessary hazards."
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