CARY — Research Triangle Software is adding anti-spyware software to its CryptoStick portable flash memory drives in a move to win more of the $2-billion-plus market for such devices.

RTS is incorporating the applications to tackle the growing spyware problem as well as to boost the software capabilities of its devices. The Cary firm has reached a license agreement with Computer Associates to incorporate its eTrust PestPatrol Anti-Spyware product. The software will be pre-installed in CryptoSticks with 128 megabytes or more of memory.

Dealing with spyware is no laughing matter.

“We’re trying put together suite of things,” Jim Miller, an executive with RTS, tells Local Tech Wire. CryptoStick already includes encryption software and other tools that enable users to utilize their own Internet and privacy tools on other computers. “Now by having anti-spyware, anywhere you go and work on a remote computer or any computer you can get the spyware off of it before you doing anything.”

Research firm IDC reported recently that some 30 percent of all help desk calls made today deal with spyware issues.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 information technology managers and end users found that spyware and other types of downloads are costing enterprises some $130,000 a month. The survey also found that spyware problems were growing at double the rate of computer virus incidents. NewDiligence and FaceTime Communications, a security provider and reported by Information Week, conducted the survey.

IDC, meanwhile, estimates that spyware represents 30 percent of all help desk calls today. And a study by Webroot Software found some sort of spyware on some 87 percent of computers it scanned earlier this year.

CryptoSticks can also be equipped with open-source Firefox web browsers and Thunderbird email applications.

“With all these tools, an executive can do almost anything he wants on any machine without having to do any installs,” Miller says. “The executive can do almost anything he wants without having to take laptop.”

The additional software can be used by CryptoStick users to “sweep” personal computers for malicious software such as spyware, adware, Trojan horses, denial-of-service attack agents and other threats.

“Spyware is a serious problem for both individual and corporate computer users, since it destroys privacy and diminishes system performance,” said Sam Curry, vice president of eTrust Security Management at Computer Associates. “By including the robust spyware defense of eTrust PestPatrol Anti-Spyware on its plug-and-play USB device, RTS is providing mobile users with a complete, easy-to-use solution for effectively protecting their data and their computers.”

Computer Associates supports PestPatrol with continuous monitoring services and research.

Sales of the portable data devices are surging, according to three different research firms. Gartner Dataquest, Semico Research and Web-Feet research estimate that flash-drive sales will be at least $2.1 billion this year with between 67 million and 120 million units being sold.

“We are excited to partner with CA and offer eTrust PestPatrol Anti-Spyware to our base of CryptoStick users,” said Jeff LeRose, chief executive officer of RTS. “With the number of USB Flash memory drives sold this year expected to be over 100 million units, security is a big concern, and we will continue to be very focused on these needs.”

CryptoSticks, which are about the size of a cigarette lighter, connect to PCs and laptops through USB ports. CryptoSticks offer storage up to 4 megabytes of storage.