Another day, another survey that's not surprising at all to anyone in the technology field. Try as they may, most administrators and IT workers can't go 24 hours without being hit with at least one complaint
that isn't link to malware, or other software that should not have been on a worker's machine to begin with. And now, there's some actual data to back that up.
Bit9 has published results from a recent study they did on this very topic, with the title being "2010: What's Running On Your Users' Desktops?" They surveyed over 1200 IT professionals, and 68% of them said that "they have software restrictions in place, but 45% said they still found unauthorized software on more than half of their client PCs." A total of 46% admitted that "spyware, malware, and unlicensed software continue to pose a problem by getting past traditional security methods," while 25% of user downtime could be attributed to these snafus. Just under 40% confessed that they didn't have a software usage policy that "specifically prohibits employees from downloading their own software," but from our experience, having those creates lots of tension and animosity within the office. After all, who can live without Firefox?
Because of this, just 32% of the professionals who responded felt "confident their businesses would be safe from damage caused by unauthorized or malicious software this year," and while Bit9 obviously has motives for investigating this stuff (they sell whitelisting security products to help counter these issues), we do not doubt the results at all. From our own time in the office, we know just how bad malware problems can be, particularly on PCs of employees who find themselves with too much free time or not enough computer knowledge.
So, the lesson in all of this? Staff up your IT department, because regardless of safeguards, you'll be running into these problems sooner or later.