According to our handy-dandy tech encyclopedia, spyware is software that sends information about your Web surfing habits to the purveyor’s Web site. Spyware is often installed in your computer in combination with a free download you selected from the Web, often quickly and unobtrusively. Once installed, it transmits information by operating in the background as you move around the Web. Spyware is occasionally installed just by visiting a Web site, a technique usually called a “drive-by download”.
That’s a nice way of putting it. More realistically, spyware is an intrusive pain in the butt, a technique that attempts to inform marketers about what sort of advertising or product messages you’re most vulnerable to. It also can be used to launch more insidious attacks, such as keyloggers that can steal passwords and other critical data, Trojans, and worms that can disable your security products.
In general, spyware drains company resources and productivity and can steal customer and business information. Even the concept of spyware is something that only Big Brother or Vance Packard (remember him?) would be proud of.
Get This Stuff Outta Here!
The question most of you probably ask is, what’s the most effective way to get rid of the stuff? There are any number of spyware-fighting programs on the market, including products from Microsoft and most of the better-known security companies. But all of them have a flaw for companies of your size: You must install a copy on each computer in your network, an expensive and painful proposition.
Oh sure, there are enterprise versions of anti-spyware products, but they require heavy-duty network equipage, not to mention fat wallets. Those are things you probably don’t have.
Trend Micro has seen the light, however, and produced a scaled-down version of its enterprise spyware-fighting product. Instead of operating in a network gateway, Trend Micro Anti-Spyware for SMB operates from any desktop on your network that has a Web browser, and that probably means all of them.
The product installs easily and can be distributed out across the PCs in your network, without you ever needing to leave your desk. If you don’t have a server-based network, the installation is a bit complicated, but that’s something Trend Micro promise it will fix very soon.
Once Anti-Spyware for SMB is installed, you can set a group of policies and a scan schedule for each PC in the network. You can also force a manual scan at any time, and call for removal of any spyware program at any time. And you can do it from any desktop in the network.
Cleaning House is Great Stuff
After I had it installed, I was pretty confident there wouldn’t be much for Trend Micro Anti-Spyware for SMB to do on my own desktop PC; I had just cleared a bunch of problems away as part of a spring-cleaning routine. Wrong! The product found 17 lurking spyware programs, and since then, two to four new ones have popped up every 24 hours or so.
Fewer programs are showing up on other computers in my network, but that’s because I go all over the place on the Internet, and drive-by downloads are pretty common these days. But the reason I know what is going on elsewhere is that I can look at other computers on the network and see just how much spyware has turned up there. Better yet, other people don’t have to worry about spyware—it’s handled.
Like all good security products that depend on program profiles or “signatures,” Trend Micro Anti-Spyware for SMB gets regular updates of spyware profiles. You can adjust your policies so as not to use the newest profiles until you’ve had a chance to test them. I was surprised by that, but Trend Micro spokespeople said that enterprise customers like to test things before going into production. Whatever…
Meanwhile, if you want to try it out, Trend Micro offers a 30-day free trial of Anti-Spyware for SMB. For more information, visit the Trend Micro Anti-Spyware for SMB Web site.