SPYWARE is one of the most important issues threatening the CRM community today. There are few things more likely to evoke a visceral response from a soccer mom than spyware, those invisible programs that can cripple a computer. Enterprises of any size that depend on fast, cheap, Internet transport to communicate with customers should also be concerned.
Often a spyware problem manifests as slow performance--users first suspect a hardware problem, so they call their PC vendor's support line. "It is a big problem for us," says Jennifer Davis, a spokeswoman for Dell Computer, "because customers are not getting as much out of their technology investments."
It's also a growing drain on resources. According to Davis, Dell first noticed an uptick in customer service calls related to spyware in August 2003. That problem mushroomed into a service nightmare that last year was responsible for 12 percent of calls into Dell's service center, and as much as 20 percent of calls into the company's help desk.
To respond to the problem Dell partnered with the Internet Education Foundation late last year to educate consumers about protecting themselves from spyware and other malicious applications. Too often unsuspecting users download spyware that is embedded in so-called free software from a variety of sources on the Internet. A license agreement frequently pops up in a small box offering some bland language near the end of the pop-up about granting access--but who reads it? The user readily accepts the downloaded software, spyware and all.
Now the federal government is getting involved. HR29, a bill sponsored by Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA), proposes to eliminate spyware, browser hijacking, and a host of other nasty practices that leaves users with nonfunctional computers. I have read HR29 and it is a very good attempt: Not only does it tighten the screws on spyware vendors, but it also tackles related problems like browser hijacking.