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McAfee announced on Monday its latest enterprise anti-spyware product designed to combat unwanted programs, including spyware, adware, dialers, keyloggers and remote-control code. While previous versions of the solution offered real-time scanning to locate and remove spyware, McAfee Anti-Spyware Enterprise can now block malicious programs before they ever reach the desktop and network.

“Preventing something from happening is better than finding a cure for it,” said John Bedrick, McAfee Inc.’s group product marketing manager for system security. “We decided we would up the ante and won’t allow unwanted programs onto the machine in any way.”

The On-Access scanning capability utilizes a database of unwanted programs, leading threats, malicious code and spyware definitions to keep them out of hard drives, memory, and other areas where programs can install themselves and wreak havoc within an enterprise.

Bedrick said that Anti-Spyware Enterprise scans in tandem with McAfee’s existing AV programs and also integrates into the company’s management tools so that enterprises don’t need to expend resources in deploying the solutions.

Jim Slaby, a senior analyst with the Yankee Group, believes traditional anti-virus vendors like McAfee should have a tremendous advantage in the anti-spyware space, due mainly to their incumbency on corporate desktops. Tight integration with existing security tools will also help their cause.

“The ability to get all of this from one vendor and manage it in a more integrated fashion is a tremendous advantage for enterprises,” said the Boston research firm’s Slaby. “The plus is that from a single console you’ll be able to manage both signature-based security and the behavior protection necessary for spyware. It’s one less vendor that you have to deal with.”

Santa Clara, Calif.-based McAfee is one of a growing legion of security vendors offering enterprise anti-spyware capabilities, including Websense Inc., which today also announced the availability of the Websense Web Security Suite to handle security threats at the Web gateway.

Among other advancements, San Diego-based Websense updated its anti-spyware capabilities to keep spyware, keyloggers and unwanted programs off of the network and stop the execution of unauthorized code at the desktop.

Anti-spyware vendor Webroot Software Inc. began offering its Spy Sweeper Enteprise product last June, and the Boulder, Colo. company is now flush with cash after receiving $108 million in funding last week.

In November of 2004, Computer Associates International Inc. launched its eTrust PestPatrol Anti-Spyware r5, while Symantec continues expanding its anti-spyware capabilities in products like AntiVirus Corporate Edition and Symantec Client Security.

Click here to read Larry Seltzer’s opinion on Symantec’s anti-spyware offerings.

“You have to believe that every major AV vendor has to make a play in this space, given how big a threat this represents,” said Yankee’s Slaby. “It wouldn’t surprise me if you see more announcements at RSA [a security conference] this week.”

McAfee’s Bedrick doesn’t believe, however, that some vendors’ products are cut out for enterprise use. “You can’t just take a consumer product and try to turn it into a business-class product,” he said. “It has to be architected to be business grade.”

Unfortunately, spyware itself has become business grade, and enterprises are looking for a mix of solutions to solve the growing problem.

“From a security perspective, it’s an issue,” said Rich Mogull, research director for Gartner Inc. “In terms of it being a hassle for enterprises and the time and effort needed to clean up, it’s definitely top-of-mind.”

Bedrick said the number of unwanted programs in the wild is rapidly expanding and exceeding the growth rate of traditional malware. “It’s certainly a scourge of IT departments, slowing down machines, generating service calls and computer issues,” he said. “It’s not a lot of fun and businesses need to find tools to deal with it.”

McAfee Anti-Spyware Enterprise will be available on March 2, 2005 and is priced at $11.60 per user for 1,001 users as an add-on to the company’s VirusScan suite.

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