Stopping spyware before it enters your network

* Barracuda's Spyware Firewall appliance

So you've taken steps to curtail dangerous or junk messages - spam - coming into your corporate e-mail system.  The next major problem to tackle is spyware. 

A recent IDC survey of 600 organizations showed that spyware is No. 4 on the list of threats to enterprise network security.  EarthLink and Webroot Software reported last year that an average of 28 spyware programs are running on each computer. Dell estimates that 90% of all PCs are infected with spyware. The odds say that spyware is already a problem for your organization.

In today's era of the untamed Internet, spyware, malware, adware and just plain malicious code litter cyberspace. And these programs are so much more than just annoying. The mildest forms of spyware can cause losses in employee productivity, as well as an invasion of privacy. At its worst, spyware can lead to the theft of intellectual property or a user's identity.

So what can you do about it? There are some good products available in the form of desktop agents that can be installed on individual PCs, but that's not a practical approach for a large enterprise with thousands of PCs to maintain. Another drawback to that approach is that it is reactive by nature; the offending software has already been installed and is sinisterly working, right up until the time it is discovered and removed. Removal, by the way, is no small feat.

A better approach is to stop the malevolent software from ever entering the network. That is the tack Barracuda Networks has taken with its Spyware Firewall appliance, to be launched April 18. Barracuda touts the product as being the "first focused gateway appliance for powerful spyware, malware, and adware protection."

Unlike the desktop agents I mentioned earlier, Barracuda's appliance intends to prevent spyware from entering your network so it will never make it to your users' PCs. The device will actually prevent spyware downloads. That even includes those seemingly innocuous pieces of code that are unknown to the user and often introduced through ActiveX controls. To maximize your network's protection, it also blocks downloading of .CAB, .OCX, .EXE, and .DLL files.

In addition to prevention, the device works proactively by blocking access to known spyware Web sites. It implements whitelists for questionable sites authorized by IT as well as blacklists for those deemed dangerous.

The Spyware Firewall also has a reactive side to it. It will find existing spyware installations when they try to access the Internet and notify administrators so the unwanted code can be removed. 

Barracuda Networks has implemented many of the strong selling points in its latest product that are found in its Spam Firewall-Outbound Edition appliance. And by opting for Barracuda's Energize Subscription plan, you get access to a service called Barracuda Central, a 24/7 operation that monitors the latest spyware Web sites and virus threats. The subscription also provides you with hourly updates designed to prevent spyware and virus outbreaks, and eliminate maintenance of the firewall by the IT department.

I think it's safe to say that with a starting price of $1,999 for the Model 210 and $499 annually for the corresponding Energize Subscription plan, Barracuda Networks is offering a few reasonably priced appliances to provide spyware protection with minimal setup. Just connect the Barracuda Spyware Firewall between your Internet connected standard firewall and your network, turn it on and you're ready to go. 

The Barracuda Spyware Firewall is a plug and play gateway appliance that is compatible with all servers.  It is initially being offered in three different models designed for differing levels of traffic in and out of your network. Each model has a base price plus the subscription for Barracuda Central, the update service. There are no per-user fees, making this a cost effective solution, no matter your network size.

Michael Day is CTO for Currid & Company. You can write to him at mailto:michael.day@currid.com

Learn more about this topic

Barracuda Networks

Your anti-spyware campaignNetwork World Technology Executive Newsletter, 01/10/05EarthLink finds rampant spyware, Trojans

IDG News Service, 04/15/04

IPS gets bigger role in spyware defense

Network World, 01/17/05

How vulnerable is the 'Net?

Network World, 04/18/05

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