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Corporate Computers Plagued By Spyware

Corporate desktops pack almost as much spying software as do consumers' machines, a Denver-based anti-spyware vendor reported Wednesday.

Spyware--the umbrella term given to software that installs and operates without the user's knowledge--collects data such as surfing habits, or, more maliciously, records keystrokes in the hope of snagging account passwords.

Webroot tallied the results from enterprises scanning networks for spyware with its free Corporate SpyAudit tool to produce the security business's first-ever analysis of sneaky software within corporate networks, said Richard Stiennon, Webroot's vice president of threat research.

Since early October, Corporate SpyAudit has been used to scan more than 10,000 computers in over 4,100 companies, said Stiennon. On average, it sniffed out 20 pieces of spyware per corporate computer, with about 5 percent of the systems harboring the most malicious kinds of spyware, such as system monitors (like keyloggers) and Trojan horses.

"That's a lower average than consumers' infections," said Stiennon, but still something that should ring some alarm bells in the enterprise. "The primary way to get spyware is to install free software, like screensavers and file-sharing programs, or surf to malicious Web sites, 90 percent of which are porn sites. Business users simply do those things less often than consumers. Better browsing habits, I guess."

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