Lets say youre out shopping for a new car. Youve got your eye on a speedy roadster, or maybe youre thirsting for the brute volume of an SUV. You visit the dealer, take a test drive, fill out some papers, and decide to wait a week or two before making a decision.
The next day, you pick up the morning paper at the curb and find it inside a plastic bag that just happens to advertise the car brand youre considering.
Back inside, you notice that somehow your cereal box also has been replaced by a car ad. Someone stuck a magnet of a car on your refrigerator door.
Pretty soon youre buried in car ads. But you cant figure out where theyre coming from.
By chance you find that a snoop has been hiding in the laundry room or the attic, recording everything you do and strategically placing the car-buying reminders.
You tell the trespasser to leave, and he refuses.
Sure, its an outrageous scenario—one that nobody would tolerate. After all, trespassing and invasion of privacy are against the law.
But there are no laws to control spyware, although proposed legislation to bring it under control is making its way through Congress—which means it could be a while before any real outcome.
For VARs and integrators, there is little money in spyware. But that doesnt mean its not worth getting into. It has become such a pervasive problem with potentially serious consequences for end-user customers that VARs and integrators would do well to help customers fight spyware, even if it isnt much of a revenue generator.
For users, spyware is a tremendous nuisance. It bogs down your computer because the software is always running, using processing power and an Internet connection to send out the data it collects about you. The information goes to third parties that target you with pop-up ads.
Spyware also installs unwanted tool bars and bookmarks on your browser and icons for software you didnt mean to download somewhere in your machine.
Sometimes it changes your Internet home page. Think of someone coming into your home unannounced and starting to redecorate and rearrange appliances.
VARs say they get complaints from customers about spyware usually after system performance slows down or customers notice strange programs that seem to appear out of nowhere.
Some VARs wrap anti-spyware programs in overall security offerings for their customers, and as they run updates of anti-virus and firewall software, they also keep an eye on updates for the spyware-fighting programs.
Managing spyware as a service, especially when wrapped with managed services offerings, can contribute to a VARs bottom line. Through managed services, a VAR or integrator remotely takes over part or all of a customers IT department.
"Theres not much money in it for the VAR in terms of product sales," said Tommy Wald, president and chief executive of Riata Technologies. But it has certainly increased the scope of services we provide to address these issues."
While the VAR is looking for spyware in customer systems, the VAR often discovers other IT needs customers didnt realize they had.
VARs may find the overall security of a customers network is compromised and, therefore, recommend remediation and new policies to protect data. The potential for service revenue in such a situation can be considerable.
And other opportunities could surface as well. The customer may be running out of storage capacity or server space. Or the customer may have inefficient business processes that a back-office application would resolve.
The possibilities are endless. If youve taken an older car to a mechanic for a specific problem only to find the car has more issues than you realized, you know how this goes.
Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break and now hes back.