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RUN Networks :: IT For Small Business

Why Should I Care About Spyware?

Spyware is a problem, no question about it. I think there is a lot of confusion about what exactly it is and how severe a problem it actually is. I'm writing to tell you about the war between malicious software writers (malware/spyware/viruses) and the antivirus companies, what our role is, and how you can protect yourself.

The face of spyware - China
If you change the picture in your mind from a mischievous American teenager to a Chinese man selling fraudulent credit cards in lots of 500 on the black market, does this affect your mind set about spyware? When many of us think about the writers of spyware, we think of a pimpled teenage computer nerd in their mother's basement, causing trouble for kicks. However; the goal of spyware is to capture your personal information, especially your bank accounts and credit card information, and then transfer it back to the writer with the intent to sell that information on the black market. Surprisingly, while the US is the largest source of spyware, China is a close second. MESSAGELABS INTELLIGENCE MARCH 2010, Symantec Intelligence Quarterly, January-March 2010

Prevention is Key
First, let me say that most antivirus engines are about the same, they have programmers researching viruses and malicious software, and they release updates at least once a day. It is managing that software that is the key to good virus prevention, and RUN can easily manage our integrated antivirus, covering 90% of your computer's vulnerabilities. We have researched other solutions and have not found anything that compares. The other 10% of your vulnerabilities are covered by an actively managed firewall and staying current with Windows Updates, both of which we can help you to do, ensuring that you stay protected.

The most important prevention step after a current antivirus system is user education. It is imperative that every user think before clicking links in email or on pop-ups on the internet. Unfortunately, many users don't hesitate to click buttons without thinking twice about it. We can usually prevent an infection when your computer is prompting you to run an application. CALL BEFORE YOU CLICK! Once you click "Run" or start clicking around in windows, it's too late. At that point the malicious application is installed, and sometimes the only recourse is to wipe your computer clean and reinstall Windows, then all your applications and restore data.

Below are some key points from an article from CERT (http://www.us-cert.gov), the government organization that deals with response and defense against cyber attacks.
  1. Filter spam
  2. Don't trust unsolicited email
  3. Treat email attachments with caution
  4. Don't click links in email messages

These points may seem simple, but we want reiterate to make sure we all understand. Email is the most common channel that spyware is spread. Be on guard when reading your email, especially with attachments and links. If you don't trust the source, don't click the link and don't open the attachment. You even have to be careful with people you trust as, increasingly, spyware writers are using their victims to spread the attack, and you could get an email or Facebook message from an infected friend that you might trust.

The programmers that make this malicious software change their code daily. That allows the software to circumvent traditional antivirus because the definitions can't get to the client software fast enough. That is why user education and keeping guard when browsing the internet is so important. We can help you to stay safe, but we can't do it all for you.

Cleanup Costs are Billable and Expensive
Spyware cleanup is always billable and you can expect between 2 and 10 hours of billable time per infection. This is not an exaggeration. And if spyware is not dealt with quickly, it can spread from one infected machine throughout your organization. That is the reason for the seriousness of this alert. If you see a popup or email that is suspicious, call before you click. It's as simple as that. We would much rather talk to you before you click and properly close the application than to get a call after your machine is infected.

Please feel free to reply if you want any further details about your configuration, prevention or malicious software in general. Also, please pass this on to others in your organization so they can understand the importance of prevention in spyware.

Copyright © 2010 by Runnetworks. All rights reserved.

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Omaha, NE 68154
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