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Scaremongering over Spyware? 196

Posted by Zonk
from the grains-of-salt-available-to-your-left dept.
Dynamoo writes "The BBC is reporting that PCs in the UK are infected with over 20 pieces of spyware on average. A frightening statistic, if it is to be believed. In fact, the figures come from Webroot - an anti-spyware firm with a commercial interest in playing up the spyware threat." From the article: "In Poland, 867 of every 1,000 domestic PCs have been infected by trojans, unsolicited programs that can allow remote users to control the machine. It is this international reach that concerns those in authority trying to combat the spread of spyware. "
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Scaremongering over Spyware?

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  • by luvirini (753157) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:48AM (#14686645)
    Regardless of how mch the actual numbers given there are over the top, the actual numbers of PCs having spyware infections is way too many.

    Slowly people that I know start to have things in order as I have managed to make them change habits, install tools and such, but not everyone has such aquintances, and even then, the number of times I have cleaned spyware from someones computer is way high...

    • by HermanAB (661181) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:17AM (#14686827)
      Every Windows PC I get to repair has at least 10 pieces of spyware running.
      • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

        by Headcase88 (828620)
        Let's count it up. MSN, Internet Explorer, Windows Autoupdate...

        I kid, I kid :P
        • Sure, but those are *essential* spyware... Anyhoo, when I fix a machine, I install Firefox, Thunderbird and Gaim and tell the people that if they can wean themselves off the Windoze apps, their support costs will go down. Some do - some don't. It's a free world - some people choose to be suicide bombers, others choose to run MS Windows...
      • Every Windows PC I get to repair has at least 10 pieces of spyware running.

        The last Windows PC I was asked to help with had a program that would not uninstall, kept re-inserting itself into the registry and seemed to have hidden the key program that was responsible for this activity (since I booted into the recovery console from CDs, and re-named the relevent directories under "Program Files".

        Sounds like spyware, right? It was Symantec/Norton Internet Security 2005.

        The reason I was trying to fix this w

      • So how much fixing is typically required on a non-infected PC? Isn't that like a doctor proclaiming "100% of people are sick" because everyone who comes to see him is sick? :-) I keed, I keed!

        Anyway, I suspect you were intending to include people who are bringing them in because "the network card is broke" or "my 'W', 'T', and 'F' keys are worn out." But even in the case of things like a "broken network card" don't you find that many of those problems are actually malware related -- clean up the crap a

        • I never see any working Windows PCs. The only working, uninfected XP PC I know of is my own, which is usually booted into Linux... Hardware problems are very few and far between - usually a broken disk drive. The most common complaint is: My computer is slow - when I click on Explorer, it takes ages to do something. Without Microsoft's crappy Winblows, I'll go bankrupt...
    • I think most of the people on slashdot could tell similar stories.
      My favourite (and fashionable) spyware cleaner at present is Ubuntu Linux. In my experience it's been 100% effective!
    • by Xerp (768138) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:24AM (#14686874) Journal
      This isn't just down to people's habits - poor quality software is also to blame. Microsoft Windows PCs are top of the spyware tree. Even with changing "habits" and installing a list of "security" bolt-ons as long as your arm, the poor quality of the Microsoft software is still going to let you down. Both at work and in the home, even the most well looked after Microsoft Windows machine is going to get infected. Take for example by PHB's machine. Microsoft Windows XP SP2, Microsoft anti-spyware, McAfee Anti-virus, fully patched.. last scan with Spybot S&D - 81 red entries. Sure, 56 were just cookies but also in the list was some really nasty malware. Then there is good old mum. Just browing using a 56k modem. Bless. Windows 2000 - can't patch as she only has a modem. Thing stopped working. It was so hosed the only way to recover was to use Knoppix to copy her files off. Of course, as it was my mum, I had full control over the situation. I upgraded her to Linux (Slackware 10, to be exact) - its now been 8 months and her PC is still spyware free. Not a single virus. Not one single problem. Mum isn't a techie and she loves not having to worry about "spybot" "mcafee" "norton" and a load of other things that mean nothing to her. She tells her friends how she is using Linux at home and how good it is. What amazed me, is that her friends had even heard of Linux. I mean, they're all over 60. Needless to say, they all want it too now. Sure, Linux on the desktop at work = a lot of corporate hassle. Linux on the desktop at home for non technical users who just want to browse, email and message = 100% perfect - and spyware free.
      • I work for a Small Private College. We have a laptop program for students as well as maintain some computer labs with desktops (roughly 80 Machines). The labs have had the same Operating system (XP) on them for over two years under heavy usage and not one of them ever had spyware/viruses or any of the other happy fun "screw your box" exploits that seem to plague every laptop 15 minutes after we hand it to a student. Why? Because we protect the Lab PC's that's why, and not with some exotic "erase the drive e
        • That is a good point, but the average user does not know how to configure a Windows box for security out of the box. My girlfriend's Windows box has been clean for over six months because we both are pretty security conscious, but every so often a piece of malware does get through.

          However, when I was doing end user DSL support, I found myself explaining to them over and over again that all these security programs mean nothing if they click every popup they get and then do not run the scans.
      • even the most well looked after Microsoft Windows machine is going to get infected

        Depends on who's in charge of them. We have some 13,000 Windows computers, none of which has any spyware on them.
        • I have to agree. I don't even have anti-spyware or anti-virus software running full time. Every now and again I'll run a scan, just for my peace of mind, and I've pretty much always come up clean. And it's not like I don't surf around some pretty shady sites from time to time.

          Avoid IE/OE like the plague, stay current with the latest updates, stay behind a firewall and NAT, and use a little common sense. It's really not that hard.
      • If you say "mum" one more fucking time I'll fucking kill you.
      • What, are they charging by the minute again? I can patch on 56k just fine, when I have to. Fortunately, I don't still have 56k...
    • by Se7enLC (714730) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:32AM (#14686935) Homepage Journal
      The numbers don't surprise me too much. The typical response from people I interact with seems to be "My computer is running slow, acting strangely, crashing. Maybe I'll look into fixing it at some point". People just don't have the urgency anymore as virii/spyware aren't targetting their own machine anymore.

      It's not like the good old days when a virus just trashed your machine, so you had to act immediately. Now it just lies in waiting and uses your machine to launch attacks on others and collects personal information silently. People just don't care enough to fix spyware until it directly prevents them from using their precious web browser, email, and instant messenger.
    • Agreed, way too common- but most spyware removal programs count even a single registry entry as a piece of spyware- so I'd say the estimate is a bit low. I usually run into 20-100 pieces of spyware on an infected machine.
  • Why not? (Score:3, Funny)

    by rahrens (939941) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:48AM (#14686646)
    Why shouldn't the anti-spyware companies do it? The anti-virus people over hype the threats all the time anyway. The press plays along cause it sells newspapers and ups the ratings...
    • The anti-virus people over hype the threats all the time anyway.

      That's just not true. A plague of linux viruses is just on the horizon and will probably strike any day now!

      And when it does, both people who get infected will be mighty pissed they didn't buy anti-virus software!

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:49AM (#14686650) Homepage Journal
    How can you really tell how many people are infected with spyware? It's not a question like, "do you support proposition 84?" where you can call people at random or talk to them on the street. I would be afraid of the guy who came to my door asking if he could test whether or not my computer was infected with spyware(doubly so since I use a mac :P), and if you just ask people, 9/10 they won't know but will probably make up a answer anyway. They could use the numbers sent to them by customers, but that isn't random at all. Their customers are much more likely to have spyware infections or else they wouldn't be seeking their help.
    So yeah, it's a number, but not a very convincing one...
    • Not too hard. Just ask a few computer repair centers to run scans before working on the machines and report their findings for a modest fee.

      Of course, the results would be slightly skewed. Not from a pool of all computer users, but from all users that encounter severe problems && lack the skill to fix it themselves
      • "Of course, the results would be slightly skewed. Not from a pool of all computer users, but from all users that encounter severe problems && lack the skill to fix it themselves"

        SLIGHTLY SKEWED!?! Try worthless. Unless you use a random sample the results will be pretty worthless.

        Unless of course you want to sell something. :)
    • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:10AM (#14686783) Homepage Journal
      I wouldn't be surprised if they have installed a little program on peoples machines to monitor and upload the stats about how much spyware a person has on their machine.
    • I would be afraid of the guy who came to my door asking if he could test whether or not my computer was infected with spyware(doubly so since I use a mac :P), and if you just ask people, 9/10 they won't know but will probably make up a answer anyway.

      It's funny you mention this. Last year (Sept, 2005), Consumer Reports had an issue dealing with personal computers. This is an actual quote from the article:

      Only 20 percent of Mac owners surveyed reported detecting a virus in the past two years, compared with 66

    • How can you really tell how many people are infected with spyware?

      For starters, you could use the median, and not the average, for a number with any sort of meaning. One computer with 20 million copies of a spyware program, and a million computers with no spyware programs, have an average of 20 spyware programs per computer. They also have a median of around 0.

      Not that spyware is not a problem, but this statistic does not show it.
  • Oh James... (Score:4, Funny)

    by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:49AM (#14686652)
    The BBC is reporting that PCs in the UK are infected with over 20 pieces of spyware on average...It is this international reach that concerns those in authority trying to combat the spread of spyware."

    Quick, get Q on the line, I think we are going to need the services of 007 for this one!
  • by Caspian (99221) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:49AM (#14686657)
    ...they are (probably deliberately) confusing the terms "trojan" and "spyware". Is it any wonder that the average user doesn't know the difference between a "virus", "spyware" or "adware", doesn't know the umbrella term "malware", and thinks that any antivirus program is all they need to stay safe?

    To this day, most end-users I talk to think that "spyware" is something good, since they hear people talking about "Spybot", which they think is "a program that gets rid of the viruses".

    When will we get some REAL end-user education in this topic? Public schools have Sex Ed classes where they teach you how to reduce your risk of getting HIV and the Clap... how about Computer Safety classes where they teach you how to reduce your risk of getting viruses or spyware?
    • by luvirini (753157) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:10AM (#14686782)
      The problem is, with the threat environments changing so fast, schools are definitely not the best place to teach this, as schools should give lifelong skills.

      Anything they would teach about spyware today could very well be moot in 5 years if most people use secure systems.

      More proper thing would likely be going the route of licencing.. that is in order to allow use of a computer that is connected, you need a computer lisence, the same way you need a drivers license to drive a car on roads. That lisence could then be limited in duration and you would need to get updated on newest things, from behavior to threaths.

      Ofcourse that would bring many other problems in itself...

    • Even further, how are they defining 'spyware'?
      I run spybot on my mom's computer, and I get 50 items that need cleaning. Of course 40 are simply icky cookies that need to be swept, 8 are bad links that show up in her cache, and only a couple are what I would actually call something suspicious.

      Yes, malware is a problem, but the numbers are just meaningless statistics meant to startle people who don't really understand it anyway.
    • by fyoder (857358) on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:47PM (#14688212) Homepage Journal
      Public schools have Sex Ed classes where they teach you how to reduce your risk of getting HIV and the Clap... how about Computer Safety classes where they teach you how to reduce your risk of getting viruses or spyware?

      In Republican states that would amount to "Don't use computers, kids, and you won't get infected. Take the computer abstinence pledge."

    • When will we get some REAL end-user education in this topic? Public schools have Sex Ed classes where they teach you how to reduce your risk of getting HIV and the Clap... how about Computer Safety classes where they teach you how to reduce your risk of getting viruses or spyware?

      and what exactly would be the topics there ? what about exceptions ?

      now, let's say jhonny uses linux at home and tommy's father has bough mac for everybody in the family. are they free to go from these classes (in which case everyb
    • "...they are (probably deliberately) confusing the terms "trojan" and "spyware"."

      On the other hand, does it really matter? Both can do bad things-you don't want any of them.

      Unless of course they will organize your bookmarks, provide you with emoticons or .... :)
  • by DagdaMor (518567) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:50AM (#14686658)
    When I help out none-techies with their crippled system, they often have in excess of 100 pieces of various malware. I can well believe as an average of the uk that 21 would not be a too unreasonable figure.
    • Couldn't agree more. I work as a techie in a school, and we run a spyware check as a matter of course on all the student laptops that come in for something (usually just for a hand with setting up the wireless access so the can 'get on the internet') and virtually all of them have some form of spyware on them. Quite a few of the staff laptops do too, even though we tell them about the hazards and even provide AV and AS software, so it doesn't surprise me that the UK has the highest rate of infection in euro
  • More Information (Score:4, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:50AM (#14686660)

    From TFA:
    If the FTC gathers evidence of a crime, it can - and does - launch prosecutions. Last month two companies were ordered to hand back more than $2m (£1.14m) garnered through selling fake anti-spyware products.
    More information regarding those settlements can be found here [ftc.gov].
  • Spyware?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:50AM (#14686662)
    Well it would all depend on what was being classed as spyware. Are they including tracking cookies, in which case anyone using google with cookies turned on will be infected.

    And why oh why can't the BBC specify "Windows" users. Why do they report every piece of Malware as being a threat to PC users. It's not. Most malware is operating system specific. if it affects Windows, say Windows.

    Sloppy journalism...slipping standards, blah blah...
    • > Well it would all depend on what was being classed as spyware. Are they including tracking cookies,

      Articles, surveys, antispyware ads, antispyware product scan reports, need to distinguish sharply between tracking cookies and installed code. They don't, and that clouds any attempt to be realistic about the threat level. Tracking cookies don't measurably slow your system down. Tracking cookies don't destabilize the OS. Tracking cookies don't steal passwords, intercept SSL sessions, or change your home p
  • Education is key (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gihan_ripper (785510) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:56AM (#14686701) Homepage

    Education is the real key to computer protection, not the purchase of spyware removal tools.

    I've only ever had one piece of malware, which was ten years ago (the Tai Pei virus). In the meantime, I've learned good computer habits. These include being cautious about downloading and installing software, using the free firewall which comes with Windows XP, and employing the Mozilla range of browsers / email clients.

    If users don't learn to be cautious when using a computer, they're going to run afoul of phishers, which will be much more of an incovenience that a bit of adware.

  • However... (Score:2, Funny)

    by inphinity (681284)
    Isn't it also true that most spyware that these programs detect are somewhat-benign tracking cookies for sites like FastClick? I wouldn't necessarily classify those as spyware.

    However, if they are, then I'm sure most of the computers I own (Linux, OS X, Win) will have at least a dozen such "spyware" infections...

  • by edunbar93 (141167) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:58AM (#14686710)
    Hell, I've seen computers that would push that average *way* up all on their own.

    You have: 10,489 viruses on your computer

    No, I did not make that up. There are actually people out there (many, in fact) that think that the computer is running really slow because it's getting old, and not because there's three billion pieces of crap bogging it down. It just never occurs to them.
    • You have: 10,489 viruses on your computer

      I've seen similar, although generally it's ONE virus infecting 10,489 files...
      • Back when I still did Windows support at a help desk level, we had one virus that came out that was infecting anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 files and up. (I think it was a MyDoom variant?) The thing would make copy after copy of itself, infect files, all kinds of crap. We'd scan the computers with McAfee and it'd sit there just constantly finding more files.

        It used to be almost fun fixing all the computers back then, because I was good at it and I could get just about anything cleaned up. Now these things
      • Here's a hint: these people are typically still running windows 98 or earlier. And they've never reinstalled the operating system.

        So yeah. 10,000? A piece of cake. And then there's what ad-aware finds...
  • its a concern (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dotpavan (829804) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:00AM (#14686720) Homepage
    sometimes it concerns me as to how much of valuable resources get wasted in trying to remove these malicious progs. It is sheer ignorance, utter haughtiness and no intention to prevent damage to systems from the users that cause such stats to occur.

    On the other hand, doesnt it lead to waste of:

    (*) valuable time, because every now and then you have to scan/remove/update/etc

    (*) valuable comp resources/processing because you HAVE to have your anti-****(whatever)-ware ALWAYS on, which are generally bloated and eat up memory/processing (*) and imagine the rebooting and re-installing

    Its sad that the 'wonderful pc experience' has now come to a stage that the price one pays is getting heavier. And with some very basic steps/prevention measures (as explained by many at /. during such stories), it could be enhanced many times.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:03AM (#14686741)
    I'm working for an antivirus company (and you have NO idea, the problem with spyware is not that you couldn't remove it, it's the legal issues around removing it and labeling it spyware), and from my perspective, there are 2 kinds of spyware out there.

    The kind that comes in the form of a cookie like doubleclick. It's tracking you, so it is technically spyware, even though it does not modify anything on your PC, does not have any negative impact on your stability or anything else. All it does is to monitor your browsing behaviour.

    If you count this kind of spyware then yes, the infection rate is crippling. 99% I'd wager. And 20 on average is reaching kinda low.

    If you only count those pesky popups that come as BHOs and other installed services, then my count would be a LOT lower. Still way too high but WAY lower.

    And yes, the average infected computer carries a tremenduous load of spyware. If you have one, you have them all. If I didn't know better, I'd say they download each other. :)
    • I had guessed that, which is why I use the free AntiVIR [free-av.com] since it doesn't bother with legal issues (being EU based) and removes whatever it finds.

      It's hard to recommend Norton when they require manual removal of malware files that aren't in memory. C'mon Symantec, that helps nobody!

    • >If I didn't know better, I'd say they download each other. :)

      I believe you'll find that they do. They may disable programs from a competing keiretsu, but if they install a moneymaking piece of spyware from a friendly company then they get a piece of the action, kind of like recruiting a downstream Amway sales rep.
  • 20 Spyware Packages? (Score:5, Informative)

    by bmo (77928) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:03AM (#14686743)
    Hah!

    DOUBLE HAH!

    Them: "Dude, my computer is slow and it's got some sort of popup that comes on when I turn it on"

    Me: "You're infected"

    Them: "But how? I don't go to any porn sites...." yadda yadda yadda.

    And when I get to the sick peecee, I see that not only does it have _one_ piece of malware, but it barely boots from the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of evil packages all fighting for control of the poor machine.

    It's a losing battle. No, it's not scare mongering. It's reality.

    --
    BMO
    • The aweful truth (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      It doesn't matter where you surf. It doesn't matter what you open in mail. It doesn't matter if you keep your system updated.

      What matters is the combination of it all!

      You have to do EVERYTHING to stay clean. No shady porn sites, no clickyclicky on shady mail, daily updates, up to date virus killer, well configured firewall, ...

      "Gaaaaah... too much work!" is the answer you'll get from Joe Schmoe Average. "All I wanna do is surf, I don't wanna worry about system stability, Browser plugins and antivirus."

      Well,
      • You have to do EVERYTHING to stay clean. ...up to date virus killer...

        Really?

        When I used windows, I had an up to date virus killer. In about five years of use, it caught two (2) viruses. Both were e-mail attachments which I hadn't and wasn't going to open. (Seriously, how dense do you have to be to open an attachment with an odd extension in an e-mail with no subject and a two word body?)

        Did I need a virus killer?

        • You probably have more clue than the average Windows user. When I boot my XP partition, I've got always-on antivirus, full updates, and firewalls on both the router and Windows. I don't get much email on my POP account and all the nasty stuff is blocked by my ISP anyway. I don't browse with IE. I've only ever gotten one virus (according to AVG (no idea from where)) and it was quarantined immediately.

          The notional average person uses IE and Outhouse Excess, is simply unaware of the concept of malicious em
          • Absolutely, the average person knows next to nothing, except they have a virus scanner so they'll be free of viruses, that's what the man in the shop says so it must be true.

            We must be careful not to feed people half-truths about malware, people with loads of viruses & spyware either (a) think they are safe as they have a virus checker or (b) don't think they're safe but don't know what to do about it. Keeping a clueless users pc free of unwanted stuff is difficult at best and impossible at worst it d

    • it barely boots from the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of evil packages

      When I first start to clean a PC, I don't even try to boot it. I just yank the HD, put it in an external USB case, then plug it into a malware cleaning workstation to run a whole slew of programs against it: AVG, Spybot, AdAware, Spysweeper, etc. By the time I replace it in the original box, what few evil programs that remain have been so crippled that finishing the job is a breeze.

      I also get a printout of the list of evil programs

  • Here's a solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eyepeepackets (33477) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:13AM (#14686800)
    They can give Microsoft an additional $50 American every year, that should fix their PC problems post haste: Who better than Microsoft to fix Microsoft products?

    Now if you'll excuse me, Guido the wheel man is at the door wanting his $20 American for not trashing my wheels when I'm not using them -- he calls it "assurance" while I call it "insurance" but it's really just plain old extortion. You see, Guido sold me the wheels and tells me he can only keep them working if I pay him forever, otherwise something nasty is sure to happen and it will cost me even more money to get it fixed.

    If the woman in this article is such a heroic professional, why is she only cleaning off the malware and not getting the users off Microsoft OSes? Surely she has figured out by now that the cleaned machines get trashed again. Maybe she just really likes being needed. Maybe this is PR trash planted by some Microsoft goon.

    Maybe Mac and Linux folks are laughing like crazed loons after reading this "heroic" article.

    Cherrios.

    • Maybe Mac and Linux folks are laughing like crazed loons after reading this "heroic" article.

      Yes, we are. Seriously though, phishing is growing into a problem for *nix-users these days, and so far as I know, the only state in the US in which phishing is illegal is California (I might be wrong there, though). You'd think "well, they should be smarter" but the phishers can be very clever, such as sending you an email that looks for all the world like it's from your ISP. (Yes, I was smart enough to check w

      • >If they fixed it so remote users can't install, run or modify anything on your computer without your express permission, it would go a long way towards fighting spyware

        It would go a long way toward fighting the current generation of spyware, which is fond of exploiting Windows bugs and misfeatures to implement a "drive-by download".

        Unfortunately criminals adapt. Block drive-by downloads and they'll all migrate to EULA-ware. OS X would not be immune. Any OS that assumes that software should have complete
    • I don't think that's quite accurate.

      Its more like, you buy your wheels but you live in a bad neighbourhood. Guido offers his services at $50 a year to stand guard over your new wheels while you're elsewhere.

      You don't have to pay him, he's not going to trash your wheels if you don't. You could pay someone else who may or may not do as good or a better job at looking out for your wheels, or you could look after them yourself, put them in a garage. Up to you. The only questionable thing about Guido's pract

  • EASILY believable (Score:3, Informative)

    by Short Circuit (52384) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:18AM (#14686839) Homepage Journal
    Here at GRCC [grcc.edu], Computer Club runs a monthly event called PC Clinic where we fix machines for free. We've serviced more than 60 machines over the course of the three events we've run. We easily average more than 100 pieces of spyware on each machine we test.

    Three or four machines had over 1000[sic] pieces of spyware, and one machine had over three thousand pieces, plus several variants of either Sasser or Sobig. (I forget which...that machine came in the door on our first day.)

    We don't just service the machines of the elderly...we get a lot of uninformed college students and their parents, as well.

    If you have any questions, drop me an email. I'd be happy to answer them. I'll respond to /. comments later, after class. :)
  • by Simonetta (207550) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:25AM (#14686883)
    The emphasis on preventing spyware from infecting a PC is misplaced. The problem is best addressed by defining what is acceptable and what is not. Then punishing the people who exceed the limit.

        Who will define what is acceptable? We will, of course. We are the technological elite. It's time that we start making the parameters about what is acceptable behavior on the net.

        So the spyware makers pay off the politicians to allow some country to engage in aberant conduct and give them a save haven? Shut off the country from the web.

        It's time that we stop assuming that in the evolving information age that the politicians have more control over society than the technical elite. We control the web, and we need to take responsibility for the assholes and criminals who use it to prey on society. That means shutting down the 419 chuckleheads also.

        We created the environment that allows viruses and spyware to exist. It's time that we and not the politicians put an end to it. And if what we do goes against some jerks 'right' to sell access to your PC for his own profit, then so be it.
  • Is it just me, or does anybody else see the humor in this coming a few articles after the EFF warning people not to use Google Desktop?
  • The concept of "average" can be very useful. For instance, you can say the average temperature in HAwaii is 68 degrees F. Or the average tinfoil hat liner size is 6 3/4.

    The concept works just swell for data that doesnt vary much, like the two numbers above, and forms a bell-shaped curve.

    The concept doesnt work at all,k and in fact is highly misleading, when the data tends to be at one extreme or the other. Such as, oh, number of spyware apps on a compuiter.

    IMH experience, computers either have 300+

  • How many of those 20 pieces are those horribly nasty tracking cookies? I'm not a fan of them, but I'm also well aware that they're not nearly as malicious as many users think they are...
  • the UK has the lowest rate of usage of firefox in europe.
  • I routinely scan XP machines all the time. I see numbers in the hundreds. If the UK only has that few, they're lucky!

    Spyware hype or scare? No, it's reality!

  • by dtfinch (661405) *
    Anyone who says the average computer has more than 2 pieces of spyware is counting cookies.
  • Anti spyware companies also have an incentive to tout cookies as some huge spyware threat too. How many of those 87% of "infected" machines had nothing more than a doubleclick cookie on them?
  • by StarWreck (695075)
    This number is easy for me to see as an "average". Either people are at least mildly educated about spyware like us on /. and have absolutely no spyware or are completely unedcuated and have several thousand pieces of spyware!!! Those with several thousand pieces when averaged with those who have none what-so-ever can easy come up with 20 pieces on average.
  • It's always a shocker to see what kind of data is collected by keyloggers. With 20+ pieces of malware on the average PC, how many do you think are in places where you do have personal information. Your company has all of your personal information, somebody had to enter that in by hand. How about banks? They're frequently the target of even nastier things than the article mentions. Remember that the credit card and check scanning devices that are attached to computers input data in the same way that key
  • Some anti-spyware/virus companies classify tracking cookies as spyware.
  • by sremick (91371) on Friday February 10, 2006 @12:02PM (#14687777)
    There are plenty of other more-neutral studies that say basically the same thing.

    Late in 2004 some studies were done that were pretty thorough. I know it's kind of old now but I can't imagine things have gotten any better.

    A study was done by AOL and the National Cyber Security Alliance. Some of their findings:

    6% of users thought they had a virus currently on their computer. A scan revealed that actually 19% of all the users had viruses.

    71% of those with antivirus software thought that it updated weekly or daily. However, a scan revealed that only 33% of all the users had actually updated their antivirus within the last week.

    53% thought they had spyware on their computer. A scan revealed that in truth, 80% of all the users had spyware.

    References:
    http://www.infoworld.com/article/04/10/25/HNaolsur vey_1.html [infoworld.com]
    http://www.staysafeonline.info/pdf/NCSA-AOLIn-Home StudyRelease.pdf [staysafeonline.info]
    http://www.staysafeonline.info/pdf/safety_study_v0 4.pdf [staysafeonline.info]

    Another study by Dell estimated that nearly 90% of all desktop computers are infected somehow, with 1 out of 5 calls to Dell tech-support being virus/spyware related. Most people aren't even aware that their computers have been compromised:

    http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php? content_id=71662 [financialexpress.com]
    http://www.webpronews.com/news/ebusinessnews/wpn-4 5-20041015DellsSpywareSurvey.html [webpronews.com]
    • 71% of those with antivirus software thought that it updated weekly or daily. However, a scan revealed that only 33% of all the users had actually updated their antivirus within the last week.

      This isn't always the user's fault, however. Just last week I tried running the update on my anti-virus manually and found out that it was borken and needed to be reinstalled. It'd been failing for several months and never notified me. Naturally, I took care of it right away, ran it again and re-scanned. No probl

  • Mark Russinovich of sysinternals has an interesting experiment here [sysinternals.com].
  • where I live, a computer is infected by 100 spywares in average!

    Let's all move to the UK! :D
  • In other news, 133 out of 1000 PC's in Poland run an OS other than Windows.
  • I don't think I've ever had a client with LESS than 20 pieces of spyware.

    I fully believe that almost every user not using antispyware products = and using IE on a regular basis - has at LEAST that many pieces of spyware.

    The latest total bitch to get rid of is SpyStrike. You have to use a custom removal tool AND at least two anti-trojan (not anti-spyware, although you need those, too) to get rid of it.

    I'm getting to the point where it might be better just to tell clients to wipe the machine, reinstall the OS
  • I just fixed a friend's machine that had over 1200 pieces of spyware on it (about 60% where duplicates), the scary thing is that this is not at all uncommon. He had the typical symptoms of the machine getting slower and slower until it finally refused to respond. I had to boot the (XP) thing up in safe mode and manually remove 50 or so malware entries from the registry before it would boot.

    His Anti-Virus software was still sitting sealed in the box from when he bought the machine! He assumed it was insta
  • In normal use even with resident scanners like spybot and avast and a firewall you're going to pick up 20 COOKIES which the tool flags as spyware.

    But I've been wrestling with a hijacker infeced machine that seems resolutel. I have maybe one or more things to try before I give up on removing it. Most of the popups start a blank browser window atleast because I scrupulously add all those urls to my = 127.0.0.1 section of HOSTS. But it's still a pain.

    Anyway if you stop running your resident scanners for any am
  • The BBC is reporting that PCs in the UK are infected with over 20 pieces of spyware on average.
    So my mother who had almost 2000 pieces of spyware made up for 99 people that weren't infected at all.

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error. -- Weisert

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