Study: Spyware Threat Alters Internet Users' Online Behavior

The report was designed to probe the impact of spyware and adware on people's Internet experiences and behavior. It found that to protect against spyware dangers, Internet users have been drastically changing their online habits. More than 80% of users have stopped opening email attachments if they are unsure of its origin. Almost half --- 48% --- say they have stopped visiting unknown websites that they fear may deposit the software on their computers. A quarter of all users have stopped downloading files from peer-to-peer networks. A surprisingly high number, 18%, have started using a different Web browser to avoid spyware.

Although many users believe that more should be done to alert consumers what they are loading on to their computers, 73% admit they do not read agreements thoroughly.

The report suggests that those with broadband connections at home and those who range far and wide online are the most vulnerable to spyware. Some of the most risky online behaviors for becoming infected include playing games, visiting adult websites, and swapping files over peer-to-peer networks.

According to a statement by the writer of the report and the Pew Project's Associate Director Sussanah Fox, "Familiarity breeds contempt when it comes to spyware. The more Internet users know about these programs, the more they want to sound the alarm and take steps to protect themselves. These survey results show that as Internet users gain experience with spyware and adware, they are more likely to say they are changing their behavior, but what is more alarming is the larger universe of people who have struggled with mysterious computer problems, but have no idea why."

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