OpinionMeister

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Spyware Making It To Business Computers

ZDNet has a scary story about the growth of spyware. Link. It is catching up with viruses as security threat to corporate computer networks.
Many analysts and administrators agree that while spyware's impact is rising, its definition remains elusive. The umbrella term most commonly refers to a wide range of unethical software, from difficult-to-uninstall toolbars to home-page hijackers and pop-up window generators. In a new poll of security administrators and IT managers, conducted by security firm WatchGuard Technologies, 50 percent of respondents said the vast majority of users don't know what spyware is.(...)

Regardless of how a PC gets infected, the results can be serious: compromised company security, overloaded networks, and significant user downtime and inconvenience. Although the symptoms of a system that's overwhelmed with spyware vary, the primary indicators include sluggish performance, broken Internet connections, and possibly even an unusable PC.

"We've seen individual issues ranging from hijacked home pages and pop-ups to aggravatingly slow performance to completely unstable platforms," said Nick Twentyfive, senior network analyst for CTG, an IT and outsourcing solutions company in Buffalo, N.Y. "Back doors installed by spyware can be used by third parties for more serious security breaches. Lost network bandwidth and computer performance reduces productivity. Basically, spyware costs money."

And the problem isn't going away anytime soon. "Spyware's getting harder and harder to remove," he said. "Some of the spyware variants out now have forced anti-spyware companies to make targeted plug-ins to properly deal with them. That's just evil."

If you are not very familiar with spyware, and especially if you are not using protection for it, I recommend you read the entire article. One alteration I would make. The article speaks highly of Ad-Aware, which I did not find to be very effective. I now use Spybot Search & Destroy and Spyware Doctor, both of which are available free at various software sites, like Download.com.

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