Intellectual Property Threatened by Spyware

Spyware infections are the number one threat to intellectual property, according to 62 percent of corporate IT security professionals. The finding is taken from “Survey on the Corporate Response to Spyware,” a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Mi5 Networks.

Spyware, also known as “crimeware,” is defined in the study as “all unwanted software programs designed to steal proprietary information or that target data stores housing confidential information.” Adware was considered but seen as a minimal threat.

“We did find adware was still a threat, but on a lower level than just spyware,” said Larry Ponemon, chairman of Ponemon Institute. “Because adware, or spyware that serves ads, is often made apparent to the user through the ads it serves, it’s seen as less of a threat. It’s visible; you’ll see pop-up ads and pop-unders.”

The greatest asset under threat by spyware infections is believed to be the integrity of intellectual property and customers’ personally identifiable information. Yet companies have incentive to protect against spyware threats. A series of studies conducted by the CMO Council show how security issues threaten brand loyalty and how brands can excel by having crisis containment measures in place.

Threats lie in spyware detection, removal, and prevention. Eighty-three percent of respondents said their employers have active day-to-day spyware prevention programs in place. Of those companies with prevention plans happening daily, 24 percent say the measures taken are technology-based spyware detection or prevention solutions.

Effectiveness at each stage of spyware prevention varies. Nineteen percent of respondents classify their company’s ability to detect spyware threats as effective, compared to 47 percent who find their efforts rarely or not at all effective.

Forty-one percent say companies are rarely or not effective at removing spyware, compared to 34 percent who say their practices are effective or very effective. Spyware prevention is found to be effective or very effective by 40 percent of respondents, compared to 35 percent who say their company’s efforts are rarely or not effective at preventing spyware infections.

Firewalls are identified as the most prevalent security technology to guard against spyware threats by 98 percent of respondents. The study points out that most spyware programs are written to exploit security vulnerabilities prevalent in firewall technology.

The findings are derived from a survey of 479 U.S.-based information security professionals.

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