Webroot Milestone Highlights Spyware Burden for Enterprise

Six months ago, enterprise IT managers had few, if any, choices for anti-spyware products that were not free or consumer grade offerings. Today, the enterprise landscape is drawing considerable attention from Internet security firms and software makers looking to tap into the anti-spyware marketplace.

Webroot Software is one of the first software security firms to offer an industrial-strength solution for the enterprise community. On Monday, it announced that it has sold more than 1 million licenses of its corporate anti-spyware, Spy Sweeper Enterprise.

That accomplishment is a milestone that shows the extent of the spyware problem for IT departments, Webroot Vice President for Threat Research Richard Stiennon told the E-Commerce Times.

Spyware Out of Control

Since its launch last June, Spy Sweeper Enterprise has been deployed in more than 3,500 corporations and large institutions seeking comprehensive protection from all forms of corporate intrusions. These attacks include spyware, adware, malware, Trojans, keyloggers, system monitors and potential security risks.

The enterprise version of the popular Spy Sweeper software enables IT administrators to centrally manage security threats across enterprises of any size, from small businesses of 10 people to large corporations of more than 100,000 employees.

As for the extent of the problem, in December, Webroot issued the results of an audit of more than 12,200 systems, representing more than 4,900 companies that discovered an average of 22 pieces of spyware per corporate desktop computer, including malicious spyware infections. On average, 8 percent of the PC’s audited had system monitors and 6 percent had Trojan horse programs, the two most nefarious and potentially malicious forms of spyware.

“Spy Sweeper Enterprise’s ability to find, eliminate and protect against even the most devious spyware programs, combined with the ease of rapid deployment across the network, have unburdened valuable IT resources and increased productivity,” said Edward Bailey, director of Information Technology for the University of Florida’s nationally Top Ten ranked Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Bailey said the powerful central management toolset in Spy Sweeper Enterprise has allowed his staff to be much more efficient in dealing with spyware threats.

“It allows us to do in one hour what until recently would have required more than 100 man hours of individual desktop inspections,” he said.

Company Rising to Demand

“The 1 million seat mark is the best indicator of how bad a problem spyware is in the workplace,” Stiennon told the E-Commerce Times.

He said Webroot has had to build up its company sales staff to meet the increasing number of IT requests for product information and delivery.

According to Stiennon, most of the inquiries are all demand-driven sales. IT departments discover how bad their problem is and need an immediate solution.

“The corporate IT community has enthusiastically responded to the introduction of Spy Sweeper Enterprise both in the number of licenses and by committing to multi-year contracts with Webroot,” Lee Kennedy, vice president of enterprise operations at Webroot, said.

IT Managers Paying Attention

It has taken a while for IT managers to recognize the threats posed by spyware on corporate networks. Stiennon said that several factors are now driving the enterprise community to invest in higher levels of protection.

One factor is that companies aren’t getting complete success from free products. While such free anti-spyware products do work, they aren’t designed to meet the needs of multiple installations.

“Those free software anti-spyware tools hit about 95 percent of the spyware. IT managers have to worry about removing that other 5 percent,” Stiennon said.

Another factor is budgetary considerations. IT departments now have more funds to deal with spyware, he said.

“The only other choice is to constantly re-image machines,” Stiennon explained.

Here To Stay

Howard Markson, vice president of product marketing for Reflectent Software, told the E-Commerce Times that spyware will continue to be a huge problem for enterprise networks for some time.

Reflectent sees spyware as a growing issue with its many Fortune 1000 enterprise customers, including Morgan Stanley and Partners Health Care. Reflectent’s remote monitoring frequently observes performance degradations on its customers’ desktops and the applications that users are trying to run.

Reflectent’s software monitors across enterprise desktops to manage performance and availability, and in this capacity specifically monitors and alerts on spyware issues. It monitors how well current spyware removal initiatives are performing.

“I think the enterprise industry is recognizing the extent of the problem and is putting more resources into solving it. So eventually, spyware will be contained. We will eventually get there,” Markson said.

He declined to comment on specific performance factors of anti-spyware products, however.

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