How Spyware Effects Internet Usage

13 July 2005

Once bitten, twice shy. Well, at least that’s what a study conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project is suggesting.

Their study concludes that the threat of unwanted software programs is changing the way people use the internet. It ended on July 6th, 2005 so the info is quite fresh. In this study are some hard numbers supporting the theory that the majority of adult internet users have changed there online habits.

The study makes the point that Spyware/Adware is everywhere, whether it’s attached to some free download, picked up from some less than reputable site, or slipped in through some Windows exploit or security hole. Since this malicious code is so easy to run across in your online adventures most americans have dealt with this in one way or another in the past year, as a matter of fact according to PEW 68% of adult Internet Users have experience some sort of Spyware/Adware—that breaks down to 93 million users. Here’s some other facts from the survey you might find interesting and maybe shocking:

Summary of Findings

* 52% of users say that their PC has slowed sown or is not responding as fast as it used to.
* 51% of users say that there PC started “freezing up” up or “crashing” requiring a reboot more frequently
* 25% of users say that a new program appeared on their PC that they are not familiar with and say didn’t install
* 18% say that their Home Page had changed without their consent or action

The document goes to talk about how that when people realize that they may have contracted some sort of Spyware, for some reason on average they wait for at least a month to do something about it. Keep in mind that if you do notice some Spyware on your system, clean it out the first time you get a chance—the issue may worsen and who knows what information they are attempting to get from your PC.

This brings up another point besides the fact that users spend their own time attempting to rid the system of these parasites, the better majority must turn to friends or even pay a tech to remove the malicious code. So, actually spyware and adware are not only annoying, but can cause you time and money. realizing this painful lesson, what have users started doing to protect themselves? Take a look at some more of the percentages from the Pew study:

* 81% of users quit blindly opening emails, and now have some sort of verification process before opening attachments.
* 43% of users have begun to really scrutinize the websites they visit, fearing the installment of unwanted code.
* 25% say they have stopped downloading files such as music or free programs from peer-to-peer networks for fear of downloading unwanted code.
* 18% of end-users have started using alternative browsers rather than Internet Explorer

Spyware went from being a little known issue to an evil internet juggernaut and household term in just a couple of years. It’s apparent in the statistics that the sheer number of spyware infections has forced users to become more aware of their surfing habits, have some sort of Spyware protection on their PC, and all around become a lot less trusting of everything they see online.

The PDF write up on the study actually gets into a lot more detail about the study and the results and can be read in it’s entirety here…

There is also the actual questionnaire as well in PDF file out at their site…

Stay safe out there,

~ Chad

Source: Susannah Fox, Spyware: The threat of unwanted software programs is changing the way people use the internet, Pew Internet & American Life Project, 7/6/2005

Chad Stelnicki

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