Should You Sell Spyware Solutions?
Since my parents purchased a computer two years ago, I have been their personal help desk. During my Christmas visit, instead of snowboarding with friends, I spent several hours deleting spyware and adware from their computer. I spent another hour trying to explain why they needed to install antispyware software when they already had antivirus software, how they could have spyware when they didn't install it, and just what exactly spyware is.
Spyware isn't just a consumer issue, and it may be something your customers are battling. According to John Bedrick, group marketing manager for system security at McAfee, about 9 out of every 10 Internet-connected computers are compromised. In fact, businesses are just as exposed to spyware as consumers. Spyware is any software program that monitors a person's computer and Internet activities and transmits that information to an outside person or company without the user's knowledge. This information could include personal data, credit card numbers, or trade secrets. Despite the proliferation of wireless devices, PDAs, and employees connecting to business networks from home - all of which provide avenues of entry for spyware - most companies do not have practices in place to protect their networks against spyware.
Antivirus Does Not Protect Against Spyware
Contrary to what many users think, protecting a network from viruses does not protect against spyware. Sam Curry, VP of eTrust security management at Computer Associates, explains that spyware is more insidious than viruses because spyware programmers don't want users to know their systems are infected. As a result, most businesses don't know they are infected, but they know something is wrong because they're having problems with system performance. Vendors are telling me that 25% to 50% of problems that lead to help desk calls are for system crashes, freezes, and slowdowns due to spyware.
So how can you help your clients? Offer an antispyware solution in addition to your other security products. However, because solutions are now available from small start-ups, well-known vendors, or even as freeware, you need to research the product you choose to offer. To ensure the necessary level of protection, the product must be a business-grade solution, not a consumer solution with management software wrapped around it. Furthermore, according to Bedrick, businesses are looking to leverage their existing centralized network management consoles, so you should find out whether the product you are considering has centralized controls. Ask what the update capabilities are. Do end users have to be involved with updates, or can they be silently pushed out? What technical support is available to you? Most importantly, understand the technology and research behind the product. Bedrick and Curry both agree this is a key point for integrators. Finally, make sure the company you choose to partner with is financially stable and will still be in business six months or a year from now.
Make sure any spyware solutions you offer eliminate the infestation, rather than just clean up the traces. Curry uses a good analogy: spyware is like cockroaches. You have to understand the infestation to kill it. You can't just wipe up the footprints and think the problem is gone. If you only clean the spyware traces off a customer's computer, the spyware root is still there. If the client uses the computer to store data for backup, then restores that data six months later, the spyware will be restored to the system along with the data.
Don't underestimate the market for spyware solutions. The next time a client complains about poor system performance, too many pop-up windows, or their Internet home page changing at random, be prepared to sell them antispyware.