While the majority of the hardcore computer users have been aware of the danger posed by malicious files found during normal web surfing exercises for some time now, the everyday Joe user may still be unaware of the concept of spyware and malware and the dangers they pose; that is, until they get infected.
|Was She A Victim Of Spyware?|
Once this unfortunate event occurs, most people become acutely aware of their actions in an effort to prevent the same from happening again.
According to the study, 91% of those surveyed have changed something about their Internet behavior in order to prevent and avoid spyware infection. However, many had to learn this lesson the hard way. The survey reveals 43% of respondents have been infected at one time or another by some form of spyware. PIP believes this may be a conservative estimate because for some users, this may have been the first time they have heard these programs defined as “spyware”.
To bolster this thought, the report also cites a 2004 AOL/ National Cyber Security Alliance study (pdf), which reported that 53% of those surveyed had experienced some sort of spyware or other malicious file infection. This number increased to a whopping 80% when the respondents’ computers were scanned, meaning an additional 27% of the respondents were infected and didn’t even know it.
In order to prevent spyware infection, a number of users changed their web surfing behavior to protect themselves. The survey documented some of these changes:
81% of internet users say they have stopped opening email attachments unless they are sure these documents are safe.
48% of internet users say they have stopped visiting particular Web sites that they fear might deposit unwanted programs on their computers.
25% of internet users say they have stopped downloading music or video files from peer-to-peer networks to avoid getting unwanted software programs on their computers.
18% of internet users say they have started using a different Web browser to avoid software intrusions.
PIP’s Associate Director Susannah Fox authored the report and detailed certain Internet habits and activities associated with spyware infection. According to Fox, “internet users who engage in the following activities are more likely to have had spyware or adware on their computer: visiting adult sites, downloading computer programs, playing online games, downloading music, sharing files, downloading computer games, downloading screensavers, and buying a product online.”
The logical conclusion is to avoid some of these activities, however, this also limits the web experience for many users, almost completely. Seeing how the activities described by Fox pretty much makes up the average user experience, what internet activities can you take part in?
In order to help users enjoy a rich web-based experience, programs like Ad-Aware, Spybot, and Windows AntiSpyware come into play. These programs were developed with the idea of cleansing infected computers, and they seem to do so effectively enough.
In the press release that accompanied the survey’s release, Fox issued the following statement:
“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.
“Internet users are increasingly frustrated and frightened that they are not in charge of their internet experience.”
Because the threat of spyware and other related malware continues to grow, taking necessary precautions is essential to keeping your computer spyware-free. Making use of the aforementioned programs can assist in this dilemma a great deal. However, most programs designed to combat spyware are developed on a reaction basis. Meaning they don’t work until a user gets infected.
Spyware prevention is as much in the hands of the user as it is the programs designed to sanitize infected computers. Being aware of personal surfing habits and potential threats is as important as any spyware removal tool.
The survey was conducted over the phone and queried 1,336 internet users. It also contains a 3-point plus or minus margin of error.