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Average PC Plagued With 28 Pieces Of Spyware

The average computer is crammed with nearly 28 pieces of spyware, according to a report released Thursday by Atlanta-based ISP EarthLink and WebRoot Software, a message privacy and protection provider.

Over the three-month period from Jan. 1, 2004 to March 31, EarthLink's and WebRoot's spyware and adware detection software sniffed through over a million systems and found more than 29 million instances of spyware.

Spyware, the umbrella term which defines software -- typically tucked within other, more benign software that users download from the Internet -- that secretly forwards information about a user's online activities to another person or company without either that user's permission or even knowledge.

While most of the uncovered spyware was ad-related -- programs that tracked Web users' viewing of online advertisements -- the two firms also detected more than 360,000 system monitors and Trojans among the one million machines scanned. If spread equally across the scanned systems, that means one in three computers contains a system monitor or a Trojan horse.

"While most spyware we found was adware-related and relatively benign, it's disturbing that so many of the more serious system monitors and Trojans were uncovered," said Matt Cobb, EarthLink's vice president of core applications, in a statement. "This figure represents how real a threat identity theft or system corruption is for users."

System monitors track a user's activity and can record virtually everything done online. The best example of a system monitor is a key logger, which records each keystroke, then reports the results back to an attacker, who is after confidential information such as usernames and passwords, or hoping to root out financial information, such as credit card numbers.

EarthLink and WebRoot will release monthly SpyAudit reports that will tally spyware figures, and detail the percentage growth over the last month's numbers.

This story courtesy of TechWeb.

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