I was both stunned and amazed to field as much e-mail about my recent spyware coverage as I have lately, from the prior two parts to this apparently ongoing (if not never-ending) saga. Several readers e-mailed me to say that products like SpySweeper, Spybot - Search & Destroy, and Ad-Aware were all well and good, but reminded me that most of the people who read these tips work in medium-sized businesses and larger. "Where's the enterprise solution?" is probably the most polite rendering of the question that most of them want answered, so I propose to provide some answers here, along with some ruminations about slim pickings for this space that are currently available.
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First, an explanation: Enterprises don't want individual users to be responsible for installing and maintaining spyware/adware coverage on a per-machine basis. As with security updates, anti-virus coverage, and other forms of prevention and protection, they'd prefer to pick a solution that works on a bigger scale—preferably, something with centralized deployment, management, and other controls that administrators can work with.
As it happens, enterprise options for dealing with spyware and adware are somewhat scant today. In fact, only PestPatrol offers a Corporate Edition of its well-known anti-spyware solution. Having researched a bit about what's going on behind the scenes at other major players who offer enterprise security services and solutions, however, I can tell you that numerous big names you'd recognize—including companies like Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, F-Risk Software, and others—are working frantically to add such capabilities to their offerings, and should be able to compete for enterprise business before the end of 2004. Norton Internet Security Professional, for example, already includes anti-spyware/adware and beefed-up content controls in its one-off version, so it's not unreasonable to expect enterprise-class offerings that already include Norton Antivirus functions to include anti-spyware/adware functions in the relatively near future as well. Don't be surprised to hear about alliances between the big boys and girls and some well-known anti-spyware/adware players coming down in the near future, either!
Why are so few options available right now? The rampant discussions of infestation and affliction from spyware and adware might already be everywhere, but I think to some extent a sudden change of awareness and a heightened sense of urgency about the problem have taken many players by surprise. Software vendors generally exist to meet customer demands for products and services, but it does take time to build, test, and deliver good software. Ultimately, the demands of the development cycle have been outpaced by the proliferation of another "bad category" of unwanted software and content.
Ed Tittel is a writer, trainer, and consultant based in Austin, TX, who writes and teaches regularly on information security topics. He's a contributing editor to Certification Magazine, series editor for Exam Cram 2, and author of the forthcoming Wiley book The PC Magazine Guide to Fighting Spyware, Viruses, and Malware. E-mail Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org.