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"Spyware is a pervasive and significant security risk. Many antivirus
security solutions simply don't offer the level of spyware protection
today's enterprises require to defeat
the widespread threat posed by evolving spyware exploits."
Source : Webroot Software
Building a Business Case for Enterprise Spyware Protection
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All spyware and other unwanted applications can jeopardize your business operations.
The least noticeable harm from spyware, adware and other potentially unwanted
software programs is to slow network and desktop processing by tiny increments.
Even the slightest slow-down, multiplied across the enterprise, adds up to a serious
bottom line impact in decreased automated processing and worker productivity. By
the time those tiny increments cause a noticeable slow-down, the unwanted programs
present within your enterprise will likely require considerable time and ingenuity to
remove without causing additional, more costly damage to your operating systems
and applications. And that's just the best case scenario.
The worst case scenario results in loss of corporate intellectual property or confi dential
information about employees or customers through the transmission of tracked user
activities and proprietary information back to the spyware's originator and on to
the purchaser of that information – advertisers, business intelligence spies, or even
organized crime. Such misdirection of corporate information compromises security
and confi dentiality, and poses threats to corporate integrity, reputation, and regulatory
compliance. Those big-bucks risks are more diffi cult to predict, but they must fi gure
heavily in the calculation of the value of protection against spyware and other
potentially unwanted software.
All risks, from IT processing speed to legal exposure, carry probability and cost
metrics. The more predictable types of risks—technological and human resource
downtime—carry more readily measurable costs to support the ROI case because these
events are far more likely to occur than the catastrophe. Sound management practices
applying the effi ciency principle of “lean production” to improve profi tability with
every possible decrease to wasteful costs clearly applies to the toll spyware takes on
the performance of networks and employees.
Proceeding logically from cause (installation on corporate workstations) to effect
(damage, possibly eventual catastrophic system failure or intellectual property theft),
it becomes clear that the more thorough a preventive solution you implement at the
technological level, the more complete a defense you have against a big-ticket, highprofi
le security breach.
An enterprise-level anti-spyware solution provides a thorough solution that initially
disinfects your enterprise and then pro-actively defends it against re-infection.
A corporate strategy to protect your operations from spyware and other unwanted
software will begin with the complete removal of existing spyware programs and
then ensure ongoing defense against the installation of new applications beyond
the often inadequate defenses at the network gateway, with centrally controlled
Bottom Line for Protection:
Protect your workstations and you
protect your corporate reputation.
Spyware and other unwanted programs can cause proliferating small costs that,
unnoticed and unchecked, add up over time. They may eventually cause a catastrophic
breach of security that you and your employees, your customers, the media, and
regulatory agencies—will notice. You don't want spyware to bypass an ineffective
solution, infect your company and expose you to that much risk. The recommended
approach applies preventive solutions at the lowest levels of impact in order to forestall
greater impacts. Building a convincing business case for acquiring, implementing and
maintaining such solutions requires that you know what to measure on both the cost
and benefi t sides of the ROI equation.
What levels of cost can which types of spyware
and potentially unwanted software generate?
Backdoors are code that allow a hacker to have access to a computer, usually with
powerful interfaces that give the hacker complete control over the machine as if they
were sitting in front of it. Back Orifi ce, SubSeven, NetBus are some famous back
doors. IRC controlled backdoors are used to kick off Denial of Service (DoS) attacks
against targets. See below for more information.
System monitors (or trackware) include keystroke loggers, which are code that
record all input from the keyboard and ship it off to the hacker. This is a useful tool for
gathering usernames, passwords and other account information.
There are examples of code that will also record voice and video from a computer
equipped with a microphone or camera. Results from an ongoing spy audit of enterprise
systems (available on the Webroot website) indicate that more than 5% of the tested
systems have system monitors on them.
Your goal is to demonstrate that an
ounce of spyware prevention really is
worth a pound of infection cure.
Spyware is an elusive, ever changing threat that falls into several categories. At its
most basic, spyware programs track your online and offl ine activities without your
knowledge and/or consent, and share that information with a third party. Spyware can
come in two broad categories:
- System Monitoring Tools that record everything from keystrokes and
visited websites to chat sessions, instant messages and e-mail messages.
- Keyloggers, programs that capture every keystroke performed on a
keyboard, including usernames, passwords and private
data like bank account or credit card numbers.
The largest emerging supply of spyware comes from commercial sources who want
to feed advertising to unsuspecting users in the form of Adware, spyware's more
benign cousin. Adware is often bundled with or embedded within freeware – utilitarian
programs like fi le sharing applications, search utilities and information providing
programs (e.g. clocks, messengers, alerts, weather, etc)—and funware like screensavers,
cartoon cursors, backgrounds, sounds, etc. Adware applications are usually advertising
supported software that anonymously monitors your Internet surfi ng activities and
typically can display targeted pop-up, pop-under, and other advertisements on your
computer from time to time. You, sometimes unknowingly, agree to receive these ads
in exchange for free software, but adware can cause problems beyond the distracting
Some adware may track your Web surfi ng habits. Deleting adware will usually result in
deletion of the bundled freeware application. Adware can produce pop-up, pop-under,
fl oating or animated ads containing scripting that can permitbrowser manipulation
by exploiting features and fl aws the operating system, the browser itself and browser
helper objects (BHOs) , ActiveX, and Java. The adware's information gathering
and reporting activities can cause the same network latency as cookies do. Beyond
that, adware can sometimes perform such undesirable functions such as installing
new utilities and features on the user's computer, modifying the user system and
changing browser settings in ways that tech support must later undo – usually
only after the unexpected code has caused a signifi cant system issue or transmitted
confi dential information.
Malware specifi cally targets the most
valuable corporate information assets.
Trojan Horses are code that masquerade as one thing, but are actually something else,
usually malicious, but sometimes just a nuisance. For instance, you can download a
screen saver and unwittingly install an unwanted program through the backdoor. Trojan
horses can be masters of deception. In an example of very clever opportunism, hackers
created a Trojan horse that masqueraded as a controversial screen saver that Lycos
was distributing. The original Lycos version launched denial of service attacks against
spammers. The fake screen saver installed Perfect Keylogger, a spyware application.
To avoid confusion, think of Trojan horses as disguised delivery mechanism (similar
to the legendary horse used by the Greeks in the Trojan War). Do not confuse them
with their payload which could be any software application. There are newer types
of programs that are similar to Trojans, but that rely on user carelessness (inattention
in reading end user agreements or not understanding Internet downloads, rather than
pure deceit. These can trick users into downloading a program with modest utility
while its primary purpose is to deliver advertising or other unwanted applications.
Malware began as the umbrella term for viruses and Trojan horses, but it now includes
any secretly installed code that interferes with network performance or threatens
corporate information. Malware causes the same network impacts as trackware and
adware, but can also open the gate to all manner of corporate information theft –
whatever the spyware developer can imagine by whatever means the developer can
devise. Malware specifi cally targets the most valuable corporate information assets.
Malware has been known to activate a webcam or microphone on the user's system
– literally spying on the employee. At a corporate level, malware can install and
run background processes enmeshed in the user's operating system (and potentially
spread to all users on the network) in such a way that removal can be as damaging
as the processes themselves if not performed properly. And proper removal can itself
be a costly exercise. Another type of malware, sometimes called “scumware,” binds
tightly to users' operating system and can disrupt company websites necessary for
mission-critical functions. Other specifi c types of malware include keystroke loggers
that report user entries that may include confi dential information, backdoors that
permit unauthorized entry to corporate systems and data, and Trojans that deliver
malware code hidden in purportedly useful download the user requests. (See detailed
Overview: “Cost of Not Doing Business”
Adware programs report computer user behaviors and preferences back to advertisers.
Adware installs on PCs and laptops you may think are protected behind network
protections, as well as those used remotely, and then—regardless of the initial
point of entry— the adware sends its reports over your network back to its source.
You can measure the cost of one small transmission, and the cost of millions of
legitimate business transmissions is justifi able. But that same unit cost multiplied for
as many, if not more, millions of instances of adware traffi c is wasted money – fat, not
At its most extreme, spyware and other potentially unwanted applications can generate
a glut of suspicious network traffi c suffi cient for the network administrator to shut
down at least part of a company's Internet access. Malware sneaks into computers
and networks surreptitiously and carries the same productivity deterioration costs,
but with a greater likelihood of catastrophic exposures. Backdoors into corporate
data, Trojans and keyloggers can result in theft of employees' and customers' credit
information, identity theft, access to confi dential corporate information, and other
security vulnerabilities that may breach regulatory compliance. Your company's risk
manager or a consultant specializing in risk mitigation for your industry can determine
the costs of such incidents.
You can measure the cost of one small
transmission, and the cost of millions of
legitimate business transmissions is
justifi able. But that same unit cost
multiplied for as many, if not more,
millions of instances of adware tra8 c is
wasted money – fat, not lean, production.
Intentionally malicious spyware is usually invisible to the computer user (as opposed
to adware's obvious pop-ups) and can go undetected unless network traffi c reports
indicate suspicious volumes of activity – and it keeps working while the administrator
investigates those reports. Reliance upon the network traffi c sensors in fi rewalls and
anti-virus software may not alert the network administrator in time to stop the spyware's
activities. And even if the alert is timely, the proper extrication of malware from PC
or server operating systems can be time-consuming in order to be thorough and to
avoid damage to the systems to which it has become bound. A better solution identifies
malware before it installs itself, quarantines it, and then enables the administrator to
remove it if investigation shows that it is not a legitimate application file.
Intentionally malicious spyware is usually
invisible to the computer user
The pervasiveness of spyware and the risks posed by malware and adware alike
received information security industry notice throughout 2004. Publications such as
Information Security Magazine and Network World and organizations like the Cyber
Security Industry Alliance sounded the alarm about the hazards spyware poses to
corporate networks and employee devices.
In fact, spyware has become a serious enough matter to draw the attention of the
United States Congress, where several bills are progressing toward approval. H.R.
2929, the Spy Act, places technological requirements upon spyware distributors, such
as obtaining permission from users through a clearly worded licensing agreement.
Spyware has become a serious enough
matter to draw the attention of
the United States Congress
Companies need to protect themselves
with every technological and behavioral
resource in their power.
After being downloaded, the programs would have to be easy to disable. Abusers
face increased fi nes imposed by this bill. Two other bills take the approach of directly
criminalizing malicious software's behavior. H.R. 4661, the Internet Spyware (ISpy)
Prevention Act of 2004, and S 2145 both criminalize several types of activities:
intentionally impairing the security protections of a computer; accessing a computer
without authorization; obtaining or transmitting personal information for the purpose
of injuring or defrauding a person or of damaging a computer. Both H.R. 2929 and
H.R. 4661 were approved by the House and moved to the Senate in October, 2004.
The text of S 2145 had not yet been received from the Government Printing Offi ce in
mid-December, 2004.1 The Cyber Security Industry Alliance more strongly supports
the behavioral approach taken by H.R. 4661.2
Clearly, these software distributors will continue to profi t as long as legitimate
businesses remain unaware of their own productivity eroding because of spyware
installations. And just as clearly, companies need to protect themselves with every
technological and behavioral resource in their power. Executives should consider
the costs of the potential damage from spyware against the investment in preventive
measures such as employee education in protective policies and the technological
solutions, from fi rewalls to anti-spyware software.
Not Big Bangs, but Big Bucks
During the past twelve months, spyware installations on corporate desktops have
yielded some signifi cant numbers over repeated surveys and audits.
Companies need to protect themselves
with every technological and behavioral
resource in their power.
Since October, 2004, Webroot has audited more than 20,000 systems operating in
more than 6,200 companies, and found an average of 15 pieces of spyware and other
potentially unwanted software per corporate desktop computer, including malicious
spyware installations. On the PCs audited, an average of fourteen percent had
system monitors and six percent had Trojan horse programs, the two most potentially
malicious—and fi nancially hazardous—types of spyware.
Other studies also demonstrate the growth of spyware on corporate computers. IT
managers, 40% of whom admit they have been hit by spyware, report that spyware
installations are constantly increasing.3 An independent study in 2004 found that 92%
of organizations with at least 100 employees have some sort of spyware infection4,
which is not surprising because the National Cyber Security Alliance estimated as
early as June, 2003, that nine out of 10 PCs connected to the Internet had spyware.
A 2004 study by Earthlink and Webroot Software reported that the average Internet
connected PC contains 27.5 traces of spyware.
3 Source: Adam Sehovic, Mobile News, June 2004
4 Websense Web @ Work
Who is taking notice of these and related info-sec numbers? According to a
NetContinuum independent study, senior IT executives at Fortune 1000 companies in
the U.S. are concerned about the vulnerabilities of Internet downloaded applications,
spyware's playground. Ninety-eight percent of the study's respondents believed that
Web application attacks represent a dangerous threat, with 62% ranking the threat at
“10” on a scale of 1-10. Ninety percent reported that government regulations like as
Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Bliley and California Senate Bill 1386 have driven
the purchase of new products specifi cally for Web application security. Narrowing the
perspective to the type of activities that spyware performs, 60% evaluated a hacker
obtaining sensitive business data from an application as worse than a mission-critical
application going down for an hour; 22% of respondents called the two equally bad.5
Ninety-eight percent of the study’s
respondents believed that Web
application attacks represent a
dangerous threat, with 62% ranking
the threat at “10” on a scale of 1-10.
ROI for the Enterprise Anti-spyware Investment
In the category of productivity impact, both technical and human, you can estimate
many easily calculated cost factors. These include:
- Tech support calls – cost per minute, multiplied by average number of
minute for spyware-solution calls, multiplied by the number of such
calls you experience
- Workstation down time for restoring the drive to a healthy state or
(worst case) entirely rebuilding the machine – non-productive labor
hour cost plus lost transaction cost
- IT labor hours to perform workstation system repair removing
the application, which can require delicate manual extraction of code
so as to avoid damage to necessary functions
- Employee training hours in tactics for avoiding unwanted applications
and identifying clues to its existence in their workstations' performance
- Workstation slowdown – cost of transactions not completed, based on
the actual number of transactions versus the number completed
during normal operations
- Network bandwidth/resource consumption – cost of resource per transaction
multiplied by the number of unwanted transactions.
IT administrators should defi ne a security
policy that is consistent throughout the
organization – and be able to manage
centrally the software that implements
In the category of corporate risk, the cost factors carry a higher per-incident cost.
You will have to derive estimates of these cost factors from your industry's standards
and any corporate history with such events, which your company's risk management
offi cer can provide. Liabilities include:
- Theft of intellectual property
- Theft of credentials
- Theft of confi dential personal information about employees and customers
- Fraud committed with the personal information obtained
- Corporate espionage resulting in loss of competitive advantage
- Liability through breach of privacy lawsuits or regulatory fi nes and censure
- Devaluation of brand reputation because of insufficient security protecting customer information – cost per defamatory incident.
Then you run the ROI spreadsheet.
1. ANNUAL COST OF SPYWARE AND OTHER UNWANTED APPLICATIONS
ON WORKSTATIONS = (Number of exposure risks – workstations, laptops) X
(reported average number of spyware programs per workstation) X (number of units
of resource capability spyware uses daily to run and store the information gathered X
365) X (cost/unit of resource capability)
2. ANNUAL COST OF SPYWARE AND OTHER UNWANTED APPLICATIONS
ON THE NETWORK = (Number of exposure risks – workstations, laptops) X
(reported average number of spyware programs per workstation) X (average
number of messages each spyware program sends daily X 365) X (cost/message of
3. ANNUAL COST OF LOST LABOR PRODUCTIVITY = ((IT employee labor
cost/hour) X (number of spyware and other unwanted application related help-desk
calls in the last year) X (average time of help-desk call for detection and removal by
end-user during the call)) + ((IT employee labor cost/hour) X (number of spyware and
other unwanted application-related help-desk calls in the last year) X (average time
of IT effort to remove more complicated, embedded programs off-line from reporting
end-user)) + ((average end-user labor cost/hour) X (number of spyware and other
unwanted application related help-desk calls in the last year) X (average time of helpdesk
call for detection and removal by end-user during the call)) + ((average end-user
labor cost/hour) X (estimated hours of lost productivity due to system slowness before
the problem is reported))
4. SINGLE INCIDENT COST ESTIMATE FOR CORPORATE RISK ELEMENTS
= (estimate must be provided by in-house risk manager or industry consultant)
How your risk manager calculates the probability of the corporate risk elements
depends upon the number of employees whose workstations represent an exposure
and the estimated rate of spyware infection throughout your enterprise. That is a
judgment call based on industry and corporate history and the best experience of your
risk management team or consultant.
In order to keep your enterprise
anti-spyware solution truly cost-e? ective,
you should ensure that it o? ers the
broadest protection, scalable to your
growing needs, with the most e8 cient
centralized control mechanism for
the IT administrator.
To avoid interference with business
processing, distributed update servers
may be deployed so that when a client
polls for an update, it can obtain the
update from the available local server
with the highest resource availability.
The Cost/Benefit Estimate
Set the total of those four calculations against the cost of owning an enterprise antispyware
solution, which usually includes:
- Corporate license based on number of workstations protected
- Annual subscription for updates of defi nitions and solution enhancements
- Tech support by telephone help-desk and email or
- Training time for IT administrators and end-user education (both of
which are less than training for entirely manual management and removal).
The value of enterprise-level protection against spyware becomes readily apparent.
Of course, your company should educate employees about the hazards and avoidance
of spyware and other unwanted applications in any case. But your employees should
also know that you have implemented a solution to support their attention to their primary jobs with the least disruption. In order to keep your enterprise anti-spyware
solution truly cost-effective, you should ensure that it offers the broadest protection,
scalable to your growing needs, with the most effi cient centralized control mechanism
for the IT administrator.
About Webroot Spy Sweeper Enterprise
Webroot Spy Sweeper Enterprise is an award-winning corporate anti-spyware solution
that provides centralized desktop-level protection against spyware, adware and other
unwanted software programs. Providing the most comprehensive detection and
removal of spyware available, Webroot Spy Sweeper Enterprise offers:
About Webroot Software, Inc.
Webroot Software, a privately held company based in Boulder, Colorado, creates
innovative privacy, protection and performance products and services for millions
of users around the world, ranging from enterprises, Internet service providers,
government agencies and higher education institutions, to small businesses and
individuals. The company provides a suite of high-quality, easy-to-use software that
guides and empowers users as they surf the Web, protecting personal information
and returning control over computing environments. Webroot's software consistently
receives top ratings and recommendations by respected third-party media and product
For more information about Webroot Software or Spy Sweeper Enterprise, please visit
or call 800-870-8102.
- Executive Summary
- Measurable Impacts
- Overview: “Cost of Not Doing Business”
- Not Big Bangs, but Big Bucks
- ROI for the Enterprise Anti-Spyware Investment
- The Cost/Benefit Issue