In a bid to combat the growing menace of spyware, IT security giants McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, ICSA Labs and Thompson Cyber Security Labs Unite have teamed up to define identification and testing methodologies for spyware mitigation technologies.
The firms' group, spywaretesting.org, promises that, as a result of this collaboration, enterprise and consumer customers will be able to make better informed anti-spyware technology decisions, with access to product tests based on standardized third-party evaluation criteria and with common standard samples used in detection and testing environments.
The group points out that, when publishing results and product recommendations, few product testers currently document their test samples or methodology, and many use very small sample sets in their testing environments. As a result, there is no distinguishable benchmark for comparison of anti-spyware product vendors, leaving customers unclear as to the most effective products and solutions for their environments.
"There is an enormous amount of confusion in the marketplace about the origins of spyware and the effectiveness of the tools designed to fight it," said Larry Bridwell of ICSA Labs, an independent division of Cybertrust. "This agreement is an important first step in maturing the industry to the point where it can effectively combat the proliferation of spyware on behalf of customers, providing a safer and more efficient online environment for everyone."
By employing standard metrics for third-party evaluation, and a common sample standard, the new group believes that those previously difficult-to-measure characteristics can be made consistent across the industry, enabling customers to make transparent solution comparisons.
Future initiatives of this group of spyware experts will take advantage of the participating members' experience in anti-virus research cooperation for threat naming conventions, intelligence-sharing best practices and emergency information distribution guidelines.
The group added it will use the definitions created by the Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC) and work closely with the ASC in its effort to develop guidelines for research tools. Many members of the group are active leaders in the ASC.
According to the organization, spyware and other potentially unwanted technologies are some of the fastest growing risks to consumers and organizations, increasing at an estimated rate of 50 to 100 percent annually.