Spyware is becoming a major problem for Australian businesses, but its increased prevalence hasn't been matched with a parallel increase in reseller programs and options.
Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that spyware - software that surreptitiously installs itself on machines to track and transmit information such as keyboard input or Internet usage - is dominating other IT security issues.
NSW regional director for services franchise, Computer Troubleshooters, Steve Paino, said seven out of 10 calls received by the company related to spyware problems. A recent Gartner survey estimated that 45.3 per cent of online consumers have been affected by spyware.
Larger enterprise customers are equally vulnerable. In a September survey of its local customer base, managed security service provider, MessageLabs, found that 58 per cent of respondents had already experienced problems with spyware on their corporate network, and that spyware was the top-rated security concern.
MessageLabs local director of partners, Andy Lake, said he was surprised by the high infection figure, especially given that existing customers of the MessageLabs service were more likely to be aware of security issues generally. These customers also indicated a willingness to spend - 49 per cent said anti-spyware systems would be rolled out in the next six months.
But just what will they roll out? MessageLabs, which upgraded its local partner programs last week, won't release its Web filtering service, which includes an anti-spyware component, in Australia until next year.
Sophos, which revamped its channel arrangements earlier this year, argued that spyware was best considered as another malware variant rather than a separate category, and should be dealt with using existing antivirus and security tools. AppSense, which has a channel-only focus, has taken a similar approach. Trend Micro has a standalone enterprise package, and options for monthly rental of the service.
However, many of the best-known anti-spyware solutions are geared for individual PCs rather than network use and some, such as Microsoft's in-beta anti-spyware package, are currently given away free, restricting commercial opportunities.
Convincing customers to subscribe to ongoing anti-spyware services may also prove difficult. "Businesses want an inexpensive software tool that can be used to clean up a spyware infection on a one-time basis," Gartner analyst, Lydia Leong, noted last year.