Anti-Spyware Tools All the Rage

The market for anti-spyware tools will
hit $305 million by 2008, according to new research from IDC. The firm also revealed that it estimates 67
percent of consumer PCs are infected with some form of spyware.

In 2003, IDC reported the market for anti-spyware tools to be only $12
million. That number is forecast to grow by 260 percent in 2004.

IDC cites the ease with which spyware infiltrates user PCs
among the reasons for the growth of spyware and the tools that
fight it. Spyware, also known as adware or malware, is often bundled with downloadable
applications and it can also “infect” PCs just by simply browsing.

“Today, more malicious spyware can easily infiltrate corporate
firewalls,” said Brian Burke, research manager of Security Products at IDC, in
a statement. “These programs make their way into the corporate intranet
under the guise of less-threatening network traffic and, once in, they can
wreak havoc.”

Spyware is not always malicious. Some of the most common occurrences of spyware are of the
adware nature that are planted by advertisers to track when users see an ad
or visit a site and when they return.

Malicious uses of spyware include browser hijacks that
redirect users and forms that allow for key logging, PC scanning and data corruption.
IDC warns that at its worst spyware can lead to theft of company trade
secrets and identity theft.

“The range of spyware from semi-legitimate to completely
criminal is a challenge to consumers and corporate customers,”
Chris Christiansen,
program vice president of IDC’s Security Products and Services programs, said
in a statement.

IDC said that anti-spyware features are soon to become
key components of server-based gateways, security suites and anti-virus
products.

The scourge that is spyware was identified in a recent IDC survey as the
fourth greatest threat to enterprise security. Other surveys have also
shown similar or greater infestations of spyware. A recent
AOL/National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) Online Safety Study, found that
80 percent of scanned computers actually had some form of spyware or adware
present.

The U.S. government hasn’t been idle in the fight against spyware, either.
In October Congress passed
a slew of anti-spyware laws designed to deter and penalize spyware offenders.

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