Special Report: Readers Take The Offensive Against Spyware - InformationWeek

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8/2/2004
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Special Report: Readers Take The Offensive Against Spyware

Chances are, your users' machines are swarming with spyware and adware. Learn about the most-effective strategies that InformationWeek.com readers are using to combat spyware.

Special Report Table Of Contents:
Introduction
What Is Spyware And Why Should IT Care?
Readers Share Their Spyware Strategies
Strategy 1: Tools, Tools, And More Tools
Strategy 2: Developing Enterprisewide Strategies
Download Software Recommended By Our Readers


Readers Share Their Spyware Strategies

So how is spyware impacting real users--both IT organizations and individual users--in the real world? InformationWeek.com readers were clear in their position that spyware/adware has become a scourge on the order of spam and viruses.

"Spyware, and its cousin the browser hijacker, are a much bigger nuisance than viruses," said one anonymous reader who responded to our poll. "They are harder to get rid of generally and affect the performance of the infected workstation more. If you get two or more of these gems in the same machine, it can become almost impossible to get any work done."

And just how much of an impact can spyware have on system performance? Many readers reported infected desktop systems that had slowed to a crawl or stopped functioning altogether. Readers running IT shops, meanwhile, reported major strain on IT help desks forced to respond to reports of PCs acting strangely.

Almost always, the culprit--when not a virus--was some sort of software that had been installed and was running in background--without the user's knowledge.

We asked our readers for their horror stories--and got back many. The winner (or loser) came from Professional Network Services, a three-person IT services company in central Florida. One of the company's network engineers, Tony Lombardi, details a trouble call to a home PC user.

"The symptoms were classic spyware/Trojan infestation," he says. "Ad-aware found 837 objects, beating the previous record by over 300 objects. The subject PC had no virus software, so I installed a trial version and scanned the PC. It also had found 11 viruses."

Although Lombardi says users are becoming more savvy about the impact of spyware, it remains a persistent problem. "I have gone out on plenty of 'workstation not functioning' calls, which generally mean poorly functioning operating systems and lots of pop-ups," he says. "Almost without exception, the problem is spyware. The customers are amazed because they thought virus software would protect them" from spyware.

Indeed, since many InformationWeek.com readers spend as much time working with computers at home as they do on the job--and that often involves the use of company computers--it's important to note that spyware impacts the home office just as it does the business office.

"In home systems, spyware is a major problem," says Kyle Johnson of Johnson Computer Systems, which services small business and individual computers. "Systems routinely come in loaded with a combination of spyware and viruses. By the time we get the computer, it will no longer get on the Internet, and frequently the system won't even boot."

On the enterprise front, the spyware challenge is a bit different. The process of cleaning up spyware-ridden machines isn't technically challenging. But it does present IT policy problems and all too often is putting a strain on already stretched IT resources.

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