Organizations often use software license tracking applications as a tool to avoid license violations or other compliance issues. Even so, it is relatively common for these types of systems to become neglected over time. After all, software license tracking isn’t the most exciting thing IT pros could be doing, and IT staff almost always have more pressing issues to deal with. However, using a software license tracking application does more than just help with license compliance; the software can also help to improve an organization’s security. Here are five reasons why.
1. You are responsible for the software running on networked devices.
The IT department is ultimately responsible for all of the software running on devices attached to an organization’s network. While this might not translate directly to a security concern, it does mean that if an application causes a security problem, the IT staff will almost certainly have to answer for it. Taking the initiative to closely monitor all of the software that is running on networked devices can help the IT department avoid any unpleasant surprises.
2. Software license tracking platforms have evolved along with companies’ application and device use.
Software license tracking platforms have evolved significantly during the past several years. Five or six years ago, for example, it was relatively common for organizations to focus on monitoring only the software running on Windows desktops. While users were certainly “bringing their own devices” at that time, most organizations did not attempt to track the software running on user-owned devices.
Today, it has become increasingly rare for employees to work solely from Windows desktops. Alternative desktop operating systems have become commonplace in the enterprise. Likewise, BYOD is more common, and some organizations are implementing CYOD (choose your own device) or COPE (corporate owned personally enabled) device programs.
These programs have increased the productivity of users (and reduced capital expenditure) at many organizations, but they may have also increased the threat landscape. Software license tracking programs have evolved to accommodate these programs and help organizations mitigate risk.
3. You may be able to improve security by eliminating outdated software.
Keeping tabs on the applications users are working from can help you to identify outdated application versions that are still in use.
There are plenty of situations in which an organization adopts a new version of an application that its employees are using but continues to support the older version for a period of time. When this coexistence period ends, however, there may be some users who continue to run the old version. They may have a pressing business need for sticking with the old version for a little while longer, or there may be a technical glitch that prevents an immediate upgrade. Regardless of the reason, it’s easy for these failed or postponed upgrades to eventually be forgotten about. As time goes on, users may find themselves continuing to rely on an outdated application--one that likely is not being actively patched.
Using a software inventory application can help IT staff identify outdated applications that are still being used so that those applications can be replaced with a more current version.
4. Software license tracking is one of the best ways to find hidden threats.
Software license tracking is one of the best ways to find hidden threats. I have seen real-world situations in which a software license tracking application identified the existence of hacking tools on an organization’s network. Similarly, I have heard the occasional story of a software license tracking tool discovering malware that an organization’s anti-malware software completely missed.
5. Software license tracking may reveal excessive user privileges.
Finally, software license tracking can sometimes reveal the existence of excessive user privileges.
Suppose that a software inventory audit reveals the presence of an unauthorized application that is installed on an end user’s corporate desktop. Because the application is unauthorized and not sanctioned by the organization, there is a good chance that the user installed the application himself or herself. If the desktop operating systems have been hardened to make them resistant to end user tampering, then the user who installed the unauthorized application has clearly either been assigned excessive permissions or found a way to circumvent the limitations that have been put in place. In either case, there is a security problem that needs to be dealt with, and that security problem may have gone unnoticed had it not been for the software license tracking audit.