Spyware: An Evolving Threat

The Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware beta is now available from Microsoft. You might not think that's SQL Server news, but it's an important event in the security world, and security is a major concern for all SQL Server professionals. Is spyware a big problem? In November 2004, the analyst firm IDC reported that 67 percent of all consumer PCs are infected with some form of spyware. The study didn't comment directly on business-related computers, but I think it's safe to assume that the number is comparable.

In the beginning, spyware was a minor inconvenience, but over time, spyware has evolved into a problem that affects a machine's performance and undermines consumer and business trust in data security and privacy. One day, spyware could become a dangerous tool for corporate espionage so we must all be concerned now.

You can download the AntiSpyware beta and get more information about its features and benefits at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx. The following Microsoft newsgroups provide support for the AntiSpyware beta:

  • microsoft.private.security.spyware.announcements
  • microsoft.private.security.spyware.appcompat
  • microsoft.private.security.spyware.general
  • microsoft.private.security.spyware.install
  • microsoft.private.security.spyware.networking
  • microsoft.private.security.spyware.signatures
  • microsoft.private.security.spyware.onlinecommunity
  • You can access the newsgroups by using NNTP or HTTP. To access the newsgroups through HTTP, go to http://communities.microsoft.com/newsgroups/default.asp?ICP=spyware&sLCID=us. To access the newsgroups using NNTP, use the following information for your NNTP client:

  • NNTP Server: privatenews.microsoft.com
  • Account name: privatenews\spyware
  • Password: spyware
  • Several spyware solutions are on the market today; however, many people run multiple products because no single product is effective. Using multiple products isn't a scalable solution. It's too early to tell whether Microsoft's solution will effectively address the spyware problem, but I believe the company will provide a better, more comprehensive solution than those that are currently available. To form your own preliminary opinion, read the press release "Microsoft Acquires Anti-Spyware Leader GIANT Company" at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2004/dec04/12-16GIANTPR.asp .

    Microsoft also provides a set of tools that clear computers of malicious software, which solves another problem for many consumers and business customers. Most anti-virus tools do a good job of preventing infections, but in many cases, there's little help for getting rid of the disease once you're infected. Microsoft's tools are new versions of virus- and worm-removal tools that Microsoft released in 2004. Each of the tools released in 2004 is specific to a single virus and some of its variants. The new removal tools are more convenient for customers because one tool tackles all viruses and variants. The tools will be available to customers through the Microsoft Download Center, as a critical update through Windows Update and Auto Update, and as an ActiveX control, Malicious Software Removal Tool, available at http://www.microsoft.com/malwareremove . The press release I mentioned explains that the new tools' technology is based on technology from Giant Company, a leading provider of anti-spyware and other Internet security tools that Microsoft recently acquired.

    I believe that time will prove these tools useful. Until then however, the tools' release is further evidence that Microsoft finally understands the importance of security and that the company treats security as an important design consideration. If security permeates every product that Microsoft ships, that's a good thing for all of us.

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