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Let’s say you’re out shopping for a new car. You’ve got your eye on a speedy roadster, or maybe you’re thirsting for the brute volume of an SUV.

You visit the dealer, take a test drive, fill out some papers and decide to wait a week or two before making a decision.

The next day, you pick up the morning paper at the curb and find it inside a plastic bag that just happens to advertise the car brand you’re considering.

Back inside, you notice that somehow your cereal box also has been replaced by a car ad. Someone stuck a magnet of a car on your refrigerator door.

Pretty soon you’re buried in car ads. But you can’t figure out where they’re coming from.

By chance you find that a snoop has been hiding in the laundry room or the attic, recording everything you do and strategically placing the car-buying reminders. You tell the trespasser to leave and he refuses.

Sure, it’s an outrageous scenario—one that nobody would tolerate. After all, trespassing and invasion of privacy are against the law.

But there are no laws to control spyware, although proposed legislation to bring it under control is making its way through Congress. Which means it could be a while before any real outcome.

For VARs and integrators, there is little money in spyware. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting into. It has become such a pervasive problem with potentially serious consequences for end-user customers that VARs and integrators would do well to help customers fight spyware, even if it isn’t much of a revenue generator.

For users, spyware is a tremendous nuisance. It bogs down your computer because the software is always running, using processing power and an Internet connection to send out the data it collects about you. The information goes to third parties that target you with pop-up ads.

Spyware also installs unwanted toolbars and bookmarks on your browser and icons for software you didn’t mean to download somewhere in your machine.

Sometimes it changes your Internet homepage. Think of someone coming into your home unannounced and starting to redecorate and rearrange appliances.

VARs say they get complaints from customers about spyware usually after system performance slows down or the customer notices strange programs that seem to appear out of nowhere.

Some VARS wrap anti-spyware programs in overall security offerings for their customers, and as they run updates of anti-virus and firewall software, they also keep an eye on updates for the spyware-fighting programs.

Managing spyware as a service, especially when wrapped with managed services offerings, can contribute to a VAR’s bottom line. Through managed services, a VAR or integrator remotely takes over part or all of a customer’s IT department.

“There’s not much money in it for the VAR in terms of product sales,” said Tommy Wald, president and chief executive of Riata Technologies Inc., of Austin, Texas. But it has certainly increased the scope of services we provide to address these issues.”

While the VAR is looking for spyware in customer systems, the VAR often discovers other IT needs the customers didn’t realize they had.

VARs may find the overall security of a customer’s network is compromised and, therefore, recommend remediation and new policies to protect data. The potential for service revenue in such a situation can be considerable.

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And other opportunities could surface as well. The customer may be running out of storage capacity or server space. Or the customer may have inefficient business processes that a back-office application would resolve.

The possibilities are endless. If you’ve taken an older car to a mechanic for a specific problem only to find the car has more issues than you realized, you know how this goes.

Taking care of spyware also has a more intangible benefit, but one that may outweigh the others: customer loyalty.

“There’s not a lot of money in it, but it makes customers happy,” said Chris Redshaw, president of Future Vision Inc., in Raleigh, N.C.

As she points out, not everything a VAR or integrator does is profitable. But a little effort on helping a customer with a frustrating problem like spyware more often than not will lead to other opportunities and build customer loyalty.

Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break, and now he’s back.