A survey of 1,200 end users working in organizations ranging from large corporations to small businesses, conducted in the United States, Germany and Japan by Trend Micro Inc. found that while 87 percent of users were aware of spyware, 53 percent wanted more education and support from Information Technology (IT) departments, LinuxElectronics.com reports.
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The study found that U.S. users were five times more likely to have had problems with spyware than users in Germany and Japan, 40 percent compared to 23 percent in Germany and 14 percent in Japan. In all three countries, small and medium –sized companies reported more spyware attacks than larger companies, LinuxElectronic.com says.
The survey reported that many users who had actually fallen victim to spyware -- approximately 45 percent in the US – did not even know their systems had been invaded, SystemsManagement .com reported. And in all three countries nearly half said that they needed more education from IT departments.
U.S. respondents to the Trend Micro survey identified lower computer performance, loss of productivity, loss of connection bandwidth, malicious downloads and violation of privacy as the major consequences of spyware, LinuxElectronics.com reports.
Wired.com describes spyware as “primarily software programs that can hijack your browser to send you to an advertiser’s page or track where you surf on the internet so marketers can learn your interests and feed you pop-up ads.”
Spyware programs can eat up memory and cause computers to crash. Keystroke-logging spyware can capture passwords and credit card information, Wired.com says.
Spyware can be hidden in free software downloads such as games or browser toolbars, Wired.com says. It can download automatically from sites the user visits, because of something simple that the user does; for example, clicking a button that says “Close” to shut an ad or a pop-up window.
While IT departments need to educate users on how to protect themselves and provide the most reliable technology to combat the threats, users need to acknowledge risky online behavior. The Trend Micro survey found that user behavior was more risky in companies that had IT departments, LinuxElectronic.com reported.
Trend Micro vice president and chief anti-spyware technologist Ed English said in a statement, according to SystemsManagementPipeline.com, “Spyware is a security issue that has now come of age, and while end users may question the effectiveness of anti-spyware solutions deployed by their IT departments, . . many appear willing to ignore their personal responsibility of staying aware and protected through sensible online behavior.”
Users who manage their own systems should avoid downloading free software and shareware, Wired.com says. They should close windows by clicking on the X in the corner of their screens rather than on the “Close” button. Wired.com also suggests installing spyware-scanning tools that can remove spyware. Firewalls can be set to prevent spyware from sending out personal information.
Trend Micro Inc. provides a free software scanner at http://www.trendmicro.com/spyware-scan/.