It used to be that an IT administrator could warn employees about opening attachments from unknown sources or clicking on links from unknown e-mail senders as the first line of defense against spam, malware, and other bad stuff on the Internet.

Today, the seedy side of the Internet comes in many different forms and from many different sources. Stop for a moment and think about the new places where malware might be buried, hidden, released, and shared--a legitimate site that's been hacked, a link on Twitter, or even an image on a Facebook friend's page. Now, think about how many of these links you've clicked on from within the corporate network.

Trend Micro, in an effort to fight a modern-day Internet security war, is announcing Monday the launch of its Web Gateway Security, a product that does more than just enhance URL filtering or expand the database of trouble spots, red flags, and other information used to keep its customers safe. The product also comes with tools that provide IT administrators with detailed information about who on the network is doing what, when and from where--even just a few moments ago. The dashboard (pictured below) gives the administrator a nearly real-time look at the users, the traffic, and the sites being downloaded across the entire network with just a glance.

It's a tool that gives companies the ability to monitor for unusual activity and track it--nearly in real-time--to a particular site or particular user. No more waiting for reports the next morning to make some sort of discovery or identify the root of a problem.

Sure, there's potential for companies to take "Big Brother" to a new level. But the executives at Trend Micro pointed instead to the ability to identify a problem at a company-approved site. If a particular user is using an excessive amount of bandwidth, for example, but isn't visiting any out-of-the-ordinary sites, it may be the result of a problem at one of those sites.

Companies have long reserved the right to monitor or restrict Web surfing activities for the sake of protecting the network and sensitive company data. In a recent survey of IT executives by Trend Micro, 75 percent said they were concerned about unauthorized online activities at work and that nearly 70 percent would consider prohibiting access to certain sites, such as shopping or social-networking properties. But the company also highlights another statistic--42 percent say they're willing to accept the risks of social networking on office computers because they see social networking as something that will benefit the company in the long run.

The company on Monday also announced a virtual appliance, which allows companies to either dedicate their own standardized hardware to the app or install in a VMware environment with other apps.

Web Gateway Security's dashboard offers a nearly real-time look at users' activity across the entire network at a glance.

(Credit: Trend Micro )