Someone is watching

"No need to lie; I know everything cause I've got spies" --Dramarama "I've Got Spies"

In fact, I've got 128 of them. Luckily, mine were all of the Web cookie and ad-tracker variety, easily deleted and certainly not mourned. I've been aware of spyware for years now, but for some reason I never seem to remember to scan. The act hasn't become automatic, like installing a virus scanner and personal firewall, which I do on every machine I own as a matter of course.

But that's about to change. Spyware-exterminator WebRoot Software Inc. showed up this week to announce the launch of the enterprise version of SpySweeper, marking the company's next step up the customer's corporate ladder.

The new version will have all the checkbox items that corporations need, including a locked-down version of the client to prevent end-user fiddling and a console that will let administrators keeps tabs on their company's spyware encounters from one place. And in keeping with its grassroots marketing style, WebRoot will offer a free, downloadable 30-day trial version in the near future (with support for unlimited seats, no less). The theory is that IT folk will be so terrified by what they see when they run the trial that they'll have no problem writing checks for some licenses immediately afterwards.

WebRoot is modeling itself after the successful Zone Labs (acquired this past spring by security vendor Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.), which used freebies as a low-effort, high-penetration way to get on the minds and hard drives of IT workers. Zone now has corporate customers with licenses numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Like Zone, WebRoot will face competition from the likes of Symantec Corp. and McAfee on the enterprise front as well as the freeware scanner SpyBot Search & Destroy and numerous other spyware specialty vendors. The company will also have to fight a certain amount of indifference. Maybe people are just tired of the whole virus-and-spam battle and don't want to open up a third front. Maybe they just aren't aware of the damage spyware can cause. (Check out what Valve Software is still going through if you want a hint.)

Perhaps the legislative efforts of Utah and Mary Bono, whose proposed federal spyware bill was recently discussed at an FTC workshop on spyware haven't yet clicked with the public at large.

Whatever the reason, the longer spyware is ignored, the tougher it will be to defeat.

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