Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Greynet Applications Cast Black Cloud

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There was a time, not long ago, when the only type of electronic vermin businesses had to deal with were the Trojan horses and viruses that came through e-mail. Even as the computer industry still wrestles with e-mail-borne malware, new forms of electronic communication are opening new doors to your network.

To find out just how pervasive these new threats are, FaceTime Communications, a Foster City, Calif.-based provider of IM security software, commissioned the independent market research company NewDiligence to conduct a study of IT managers and end users to gauge the effects of greynet applications.

Greynets, according to Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing at FaceTime, are programs that network users download and installed on their computers often without permission from the IT department.

Specific greynet applications include instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing (e.g. Kazaa), peer-to-peer collaboration (e.g. WebEx or GoToMeeting), streaming media and RSS feeds, proxy applications (e.g. Tor or Ghostsurf) and others. That’s the good side of greynet. The dark side is full of and adware and spyware.

While even the good side of greynet applications can have some negative effects of network performance and security, Cabri said FaceTime specifically wanted to know the impact of spyware introduced through greynet applications. The purpose of the blind survey (i.e., respondents didn’t know who had sponsored it) was to help ”understand what was going on with greynet applications — which are stealth in contrast to e-mail, Cabri said.

Announced today, the survey results (based on responses from 622 IT managers and 564 end users over a three-month period) indicate that enterprises spend more $130,000 per month in IT time fighting spyware-related issues.

According to the research findings, 78 percent of end users currently use one or more greynet application, but that number will jump to 93 percent in the next six months.

Interestingly, in the era of heightened networked security, more than half (52 percent) of end users surveyed agreed with this statement: ”I should be able to install the applications I need on my work computer.” Only 16 percent disagreed. The other 32 percent was neutral.

Not only do end users feel entitled to download greynet applications, they also believe that the IT department has any security issues associated with greynets under control. However, 87 percent of the same end users reported a spyware or virus problem resulting in slow Internet response times, sluggish PCs, sytem crashes, uncontrollable pop-up ads and corrupted files.

Attempts to address virus and adware issues aren’t working, according to the NewDiligence study: Even among IT managers who have rolled out perimeter-based antivirus, url filtering and IDS/IDP gateway servers, 77 percent report that they have had either a virus or spyware incident in the past six months.

IM appears to be an equal opportunity application as 30 percent of IT managers who experienced a virus incident, report that IM has been associated with such occurrences. A similar number report that IM has been associated with spyware.

This article was first published on

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