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Tuesday, 04 April 2017 11:37

BSA unable to provide study to back up its claims

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Last week when BSA|The Software Alliance tried to sell its message of "unlicensed software bad, licensed software good", it made reference to an IDC survey that it said proved this claim.

But the organisation now seems to be unable to locate that survey. All that one can ascertain from the 2016 report issued by BSA itself is that the IDC study was done in 2015.

The BSA study dates back to May 2016, which is itself a bit outdated in this digital age. But let that pass. But the IDC study is nowhere to be seen, despite repeated queries to BSA and its external PR agency as well.

In its own study, BSA claims: "Malware is a huge problem for organisations – and one of the main culprits is unlicensed software."

I agree with the first part of that statement – given that one of the main proprietary software packages in use is Microsoft Windows, malware is an enormous problem.

propaganda

It is compounded by the fact that Microsoft stubbornly refuses to make the creation of a user account mandatory before one uses Windows.

Running a computer as an administrator for day-to-day tasks — as millions of Windows users do — means that when malware takes hold, it can trash the entire system.

Maybe the BSA should talk to Microsoft about this; it would help mitigate the issue to a great extent.

The BSA study continues: "An analysis done as part of BSA's new Global Software Survey finds that the higher the rate of unlicensed PC software, the higher the likelihood that users will experience potentially debilitating malware."

The logic of this statement is dubious at best. Speaking as one who has seen more than my fair share of PCs running both pirated and legal software, there is no difference at all between the two.

Patching is what makes the difference but then patches can be obtained for both pirated and legal software.

BSA then claims that "The findings are the result of a regression analysis, a statistical process for estimating the relationships among variables. Here, they showed a very strong positive correlation between malware and unlicensed software."

Relationships between two variables can always be demonstrated. The rate of hair growth on my head may be directly proportional to the number of ice creams I eat in a month – but then this is no indication of cause and effect.

To prove that, one needs a little more than statistics.

BSA goes on: "Specifically, the correlation coefficient is 0.78, where 1.0 is a perfect correlation. By comparison, the correlation between education and income level is 0.77, and the correlation between a nation’s adherence to the rule of law and its level of IT sophistication is 0.79. The closer the coefficient is to 1.0, the stronger the relationship between the two variables under study, and the more likely that the value of one will be able to predict the value of the other.

"These results confirm an earlier 2015 study by IDC, which also found that unlicensed software use 'is a strong predictor of malware encounters' and that 'there is empirical evidence of causation'."

Sounds very pseudo-scientific – but if there was some veracity to it, why can't BSA provide the IDC study for perusal? Why has that crucial study gone walkabout?

To accept things like this from an organisation like the BSA, which does not exactly rank very high in the trust stakes, is extremely difficult. And it becomes all the more difficult to accept anything when a study that one wants to see goes missing.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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