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Thursday, 18 November 2004 02:44

Spam has peaked, spyware the new threat - Gartner expert

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Spam has peaked and is now on the decline, according to Gartner security expert, Rich Mogull. According to Mogull, virtually all desktop users have some sort of spam filtering in place these days and spam has dropped to the level of being an annoyance. The new danger, according to Mogull is spyware, which has grown to such proportions that 80-90% of enterprises are afflicted to some degree, causing significant productivity losses.

According to Mogull, spyware is becoming more elusive and malicious, and is potentially a far greater threat to computer users than the various types of viruses will ever be. "Spyware is in the eye of the beholder. You have to go a website or download software - it needs human interaction," says Mogull. "Some spyware can often be quite useful and is quite OK, as long as it does not alter the way a computer operates and as long as the user knows that it has been loaded - a cookie could be considered spyware."

Mogull says there are some particularly nasty spyware applications now in circulation that go way beyond the boundaries of commercial acceptability and are well into the realm of criminal intrusion. Mogull says, "There are spyware applications out there such as coolwebsearch that randomly sends you to different web sites. Another one is tvmedia, which creates a new user on your computer and if you try to delete it in safe mode, it locks you out of your computer. These applications are almost impossible to get off your computer and enterprises that get infected will usually re-image your system."

Mogull says that enterprises and vendors are now only just beginning to come to grips with spyware. He says, "New enterprise anti-spyware tools are beginning to emerge, such as Bluecoat, which has multi-layered defences, such as blocking known websites and verifying signatures. Desktop solutions are problematic because users don't want to load unnecessary new software but there are products such as Lavasoft, McAfee, Pest Patrol, Web Root and Spybot."

Users who have switched to the FireFox browser should not take to much comfort, according to Mogull. "FireFox is more secure only because it is not being targeted yet."

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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