Spyware a national security threat?

In his latest Security Watch column, Robert Vamosi offers a good comparison of the virus threat versus the spyware threat.

Computer Associates announced a 6.9 million dollar contract to protect Department of Defense (DOD) computers from spyware. The need for the contract indicates spyware has infected military computers. An article from FCW.com about enterprise antispyware software at Fort Hood includes this quote from Army Maj. Bert Belisch: "These spyware programs started out originally as just a nuisance to our users, but today, they're beginning to impact the reliability of our systems and have even broader implications related to the security of our data."

Now I could rant about how spyware makers, including the supposedly legitimate companies who insist they only make adware, should be treated as harshly as any hacker who breaks into a military computer. And I'm certainly not saying they shouldn't. But from tales I've heard about military computers, many soldiers use them just like staff at a private company, or students on a campus might. They get on P2P networks, download programs, and experience the same spyware threats as civilians. Of course, that the spyware companies would actually track and serve pop-up ads to any computer on a .mil domain is the height of stupidity.