RealTime IT News

Spyware Skyrockets on Greynet Fuel

Employees are downloading "Greynet" (unsanctioned) applications at an escalating clip and unleashing more spyware and adware in the process. The extra mess is costing enterprises on average over $130,000 a month to mop up.

Those are just some of the conclusions from a survey by FaceTime Communications, which also sells software security for enterprise IM networks. The survey, conducted by market research firm NewDiligence, said enterprises now spend over $130,000 per month in IT time fighting spyware-related issues.

Greynet applications are those not officially sanctioned or supported by the enterprise or IT staff. The categories include instant messaging, Web browsing/surfing software (including streaming media and RSS ), peer-to-peer file sharing (e.g. BitTorrent, Kazaa), peer-to-peer collaboration (e.g. WebEx, PlaceWare, anonymizers) and proxies (e.g. Tor, Ghostsurf).

What's helping to fuel the skyrocketing spyware stats? Consider some of the responses from end users. With anonymity guaranteed, a majority said they believe they have the right to install Greynet applications at the workplace.

"They also believe IT has any security issues associated with Greynets under control," the survey added. Yet, out of the group that thinks IT can fix any mess they unleash on the enterprise, some 87 percent of the same end users reported a spyware or virus problem resulting in slow Internet response times, pop-up ads and corrupted files.

To their credit, they understood the risks of downloading an unsanctioned application, said Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing at FaceTime Communications.

vista folders
Effects of Greynet-delivered Viruses, Spyware (click for larger view)

"But the majority also felt that the IT organization had the problem handled so they can use the tools they feel they need for the job, despite the fact they admitted to spyware problems in the last six months," he told internetnews.com. "So their confidence may be misplaced."

The survey was conducted over the past three months, and consisted of 622 IT managers and 564 end users across small, medium and large businesses. "We did the survey to understand what the IT concerns are, and the consequences of using these applications," he added.

Although some Greynet applications may be benign, and some applications may be considered critical to day-to-day job functions, such as IM, the survey found that unsanctioned applications are unleashing an increase in spyware-related incidents.

In addition, the survey also gauged how fast high-end users are adopting unsanctioned network applications on businesses' PCs.

The survey said within the next six months, virtually all end users will have deployed some type of Greynet application and eight out of 10 end users (78 percent) now use one or more Greynet applications. This includes such critical applications as free instant messaging clients, or trying out a free VoIP product, such as Skype.

Expect this number to rise to 93 percent within the next six months, the survey added.

Among IT managers that replied to the survey, three in 10 who experienced a virus incident said IM was the root of the problem, such as employees clicking on a link from an IM not on their buddy list and launching a Web site loaded with malicious code.

Of the IT managers that have rolled out perimeter security that consists of gateway anti-virus, URL-filtering and Intrustion Detection Systems , 77 percent have logged either a virus or spyware incident in the past six months.

Kailash Ambwani, president and CEO of FaceTime Communications, said enterprises are seeing significant adoption of both "good" and "bad" Greynet applications on employee PCs.

Cabri said overall, the conclusion is that network security will have to catch these issues before they even invade the premises, which means the trend to add more network security to the perimeter and in front of the network will continue.