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Blue Coat Systems, which has a history of addressing enterprise security needs, is taking the wraps off an anti-spyware appliance and supporting channel program to help SMEs keep unwanted online activities at bay.

The appliance, called Interceptor, blocks spyware so that users can safely view spyware-laden sites without getting infected. The company is selling the product exclusively through the channel, said Blue Coat executives.

Spyware is increasingly becoming a problem for corporations of any size. Dell Inc., for example, estimated spyware triggers more than 20 percent of its help desk calls, according to Forrester Research. Spyware writers around the globe have infiltrated financial institutions in the United States, United Kingdom, Greece and elsewhere, collecting valuable personal information such as identification numbers, credit card numbers and addresses.

One year after the FTC workshop on spyware, things have gotten worse, claims Larry Seltzer. Click here to read his column.

The intrusion is prevalent: More than 80 percent of computers are infected with spyware, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance. The financial sector alone is expected to lose more than $8 billion by next year because of spyware, Meridian Research predicted.

“This is something that’s going to get worse,” said Mike Menegay, president and CEO of Software Medium, a Dallas-based software security value-added professional services firm. “It’s one of those problem areas technology will be able to solve over the next two years.”

Part of that solution, Menegay said, could be Interceptor. The appliance is derived from Blue Coat’s ProxySG enterprise solution and uses SCOPE, the developer’s Spyware Catching Object Protection Engine to prevent known and unknown forms of spyware at the gateway.

“It is an interceptor. It’s a blocker,” Menegay said. “It doesn’t do you much good if, every day, you have to run cleaning programs on your PCs.”

Pricing starts at $2,295 and requires an annual license subscription, which starts at $695 for 100 computers. The subscription includes SCOPE engine updates, continuous spyware profile updates and Blue Coat’s policy optimization service backed by Blue Coat Labs. The SME solution costs about one-tenth the price of Blue Coat’s enterprise all-in-one, but includes the same spyware combat software, said Cindy Kelly, vice president of North America channels at Blue Coat.

Interceptor, which comes in a 1U rack-mount format, will update subscriptions automatically and seamlessly whenever necessary, she said. “It’s a single console [to manage],” Kelly added.

“It’s easy, effortless and affordable,” said Lorraine Arriaga-Jobe, director of North American channel marketing programs at Blue Coat. “It truly is the first-to-market best-of-breed gateway spyware appliance.”

Blue Coat, which is selling Interceptor exclusively through the channel, beefed up its channel staff by hiring Kelly and Arriaga-Jobe, among others, Kelly said.

“This will be the fourth channel program I’ve had the pleasure to start. I was actually in executive management and sales in the reseller channel for 17 years,” Arriaga-Jobe said. “I have walked 10,000 miles in their shoes. They know I understand their pain.”

Part of that pain can involve sales cycles. But, based on preliminary results, Interceptor’s sales cycle should be between two and six weeks, said Kelly. “We think it’s a two-call close,” she said.

Since the device lies outside the network, Interceptor will have a fast ROI by decreasing help desk calls, eliminating the need to reimage infected systems and run daily cleaning programs, said Menegay. “Blue Coat is bringing an enterprise-level technology down to an SME environment at an SME price.”

Next week, Blue Coat is expected to unveil an exclusive arrangement with a large national distributor. “Hopefully, we can leverage their existing relationships in the SME space,” said Kelly.

The vendor plans to sign 100 to 150 VARs, based on geography, she said. Blue Coat will conduct demand-generation programs, offer VARs dedicated technical support through a “bat phone,” have national account managers in the field, and provide online or in-person sales and technical training, said Kelly.

“We’ve got different methodologies,” she said. “Resellers can get the training any way they want it.”

The first 100 participating VARs will receive seed units, and Blue Coat plans to provide demo units for end users, she noted. Today, five SME resellers have seed units they are using internally, and by mid-May they plan to begin pilot programs at already identified clients, said Kelly. Next month, the channel team will hold a two-day “New-Hire Boot Camp,” followed by a companywide Field Business Conference, said Kelly.