In preparation for its quarterly State of Internet Security report, anti-spyware vendor Webroot surveyed over 1,800 small businesses (SMBs) in six countries. Among the highlights of the findings, Webroot discovered that "most SMB IT groups do not have in-house security expertise nor policies to manage employees' personal use of work computers."

The survey results also revealed that spam was the greatest problem faced by SMBs that participated in the study. In the United States, spyware was rated as the second largest infection problem followed by adware, viruses, phishing, and Trojans respectively. Keyloggers and rootkits were ranked as the two least frequent infections experienced by SMBs in the US.

Webroot sees spyware as the fastest growing threat to the Internet landscape. The company cites a report from ScanSafe that shows that in 2006 the number of viruses declined slightly while the number of new spyware threats grew by 254 percent over 2005.

The survey results revealed that three quarters of the respondents have fewer than 10 administrators in their IT departments. Nearly 9 percent of companies in the US and Canada had no IT department at all, while 20 to 39 percent of companies in France, Germany, Japan, and the UK have no IT departments.

Webroot see the lack of IT resources as the brewing of a "perfect storm."

"Unlike larger corporations, SMBs often lack the monetary resources and IT expertise to install and maintain the type of protection needed in the face of today’s growing malware threats. The real dichotomy here is that most of these companies think the real threats are viruses and worms, but the reality is the percentage of spyware is much higher and growing quickly," said Peter Watkins, CEO, Webroot Software. "As a result, these companies are easier targets for cyber criminals when compared to larger companies with dedicated IT security resources."

Webroot's State of Internet Security Report: Protecting Small and Medium Businesses is available for download in PDF format at the company's Web site.