Businesses are unaware of the full extent to which their corporate networks are exposed to the problem of spyware and its potential security risks, according to UK IT bosses.

One security vendor warned last week that PCs and networks could grind to a halt if the current spyware epidemic continues undetected and unchecked.

We asked’s user panel of UK CIOs and heads of IT if they believe businesses are underestimating the full extent of their networks’ exposure to spyware and 10 said ‘yes’ with just two saying ‘no’.

Pete Smith, director of IT and telecoms at Inmarsat, said: “I believe that most corporates underestimate spyware and mistakenly believe that they are covered by antivirus packages alone. Spyware can do just as must damage in terms of causing computer problems, acting as a Trojan back door and breaching security.”

Graham Benson, IT director at, said most companies seem to be focused just on the virus threat; Richard Steel, head of ICT at London Borough of Newham, said the spyware problem has developed rapidly since the middle of last year. “Unlike traditional viruses there is no obvious sign of infection, such as software corruption, but spyware can consume processing and network resources at an alarming rate, whilst stealing information and identity,” he said.

Bill Gibbons, CIO at Abbey Group, said that while the management and prevention of spyware intrusions via downloads is manageable with good antivirus protection, the issue of tracking cookies is emerging.

“This requires strong corporate governance on staff open access in the short term to mitigate any unnecessary exploitation opportunities. But this is one that is worth putting some additional focus on in the future,” he said.

Several of the IT chiefs pointed to the beta release of Microsoft’s own anti-spyware product as a positive development.

Michael Bufalino, IT director Sheppard Robson, said: “Microsoft’s acquisition of Giant and the beta trial they are running for the next few months gives companies an opportunity to address and perhaps quantify the spyware issue.”

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Graham Benson, IT director,
Michael Bufalino, IT director, Sheppard Robson
Bill Gibbons, CIO, Abbey Group
Colin Moore, head of information services, Department for Education and Skills
Rob Neil, head of ICT, Ashford Borough Council
Dr John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
Peter Pedersen, CTO, Blue Square
Sean Powley, head of IS strategy, London Borough of Barnet
Pete Smith, director of IT and telecoms, Inmarsat
Richard Steel, London Borough of Newham
Graham Yellowley, director of technology, Mitsubishi Securities International
Richard Yeo, CTO, easyGroup

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and want to be part of’s CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at