The Spyware Menace
Ziff Davis Internet News quizzed about a dozen attendees on the high-priority security problems that called for improved budgeting. Each one said that spyware had surpassed e-mail-borne viruses and spam as the "biggest nightmare." "Its not just having unwanted software on desktops, but spyware is a drain on resources when you have an infection," said the University of Mimis Pimienta. "You are always worried about information leaks when keyloggers and tracking software sneak onto the machine, but, even worse, you are running from machine to machine trying to disinfect and uninstall, and thats a major expense." "Youre also dealing with major desktop performance issues. It is the biggest problem today, without a doubt," Pimienta said.Microsofts blue-shirted employees are also busy displaying the Windows AntiSpyware beta version, constantly reminding the throng that a for-profit version with management capabilities will ship once the consumer product goes final. Socket Communications Thompson said his company was testing Sunbelt Software Distribution Inc.s CounterSpy product for spyware protection, but that he is keen to take a look at a corporate edition of the Microsoft product. Click here to read about problems with Microsofts spyware acquisition strategy. Sunbelt, which has a history with Microsoft, also has a major presence here, using the lure of a Chopper motorcycle to help score some attention for CounterSpy demos. Interestingly, Sunbelts anti-spyware signature database is being powered by engineers at Redmond, thanks to a co-ownership deal on the rights purchased by Microsoft when it acquired Giant Company Software Inc. earlier this year. Microsoft is delivering spyware signature updates under the pre-existing Sunbelt/Giant partnership through July 2007. As Microsoft gears up to deliver enterprise security products, theres a growing sense here that the irony of a company hawking security for its own products wont come into play. "Thats a non-issue for me," Thompson said. "Id consider a security product from Microsoft because, to some extent, they have an edge over competitors." "Who else would have a better understanding of how Windows works or how to patch security holes? Its a helpful thing that they own the software they are protecting because they know how it works inside and out," he added. "It seems to me that Microsoft is committed to spending on R&D around security. Theyre putting a lot of emphasis on identifying all the different types of spyware, malware and viruses, and I think they are slowly gaining trust," he said. Thompson singled out Microsofts work around rootkit detection as one area where the company is way ahead of others in the industry. The University of Miamis Pimienta was also unfazed by the perception that Microsoft products are insecure. "If theyre priced competitively, wed consider it," he said of Redmonds enterprise anti-virus/anti-spyware lineup. Another big security-themed topic dominating the water-cooler chatter at Tech Ed was the security enhancements coming this summer in the refresh of the Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft employees here flatly refused to discuss plans for IE 7.0, and it came as a surprise to many that some basic details were included in a presentation from Gordon Mangione, Microsoft corporate vice president. Mangione confirmed that IE 7.0, due later this summer, will ship with reduced privilege mode turned on by default to help thwart browser-based hacking attacks. "Weve rearchitected it to defend against exploits," Mangione said, describing the latest browser version as a "lower rights IE" with base minimal privileges. The new browser will also feature major changes in the way files are executed, and new anti-spoofing and anti-phishing technology to let users identify scam Web sites. "Im really looking forward to what they will do with IE. It would be nice to be able to rely less and less on anti-virus and anti-spyware and more on the operating system," said one sys admin who insisted on anonymity. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
In the exhibit hall, vendors displaying enterprise-facing anti-spyware products are clearly visible.