Report: Adware Less Prevalent, Harder To Remove

The good news is that the biggest adware companies are making strides toward ensuring that their ad-serving software isn't installed without users' knowledge. But the bad news is that some smaller players now illicitly install ad-serving programs that are proving far more difficult to remove than in the past, according to a report released this week by Webroot Software Inc., a company that markets anti-spyware software.

"The penetration rates of mainstream adware companies are slowing," states the report, "Q2 State of Spyware." But, the report continues, "extremely pernicious forms of adware" have arisen to fill the void.

Overall, 83 percent of consumer computers had either spyware, adware, system monitors, Trojans, or cookies--down from 88 percent in the first quarter and 92 percent in the last quarter of 2004.

About 50 percent of consumer computers evaluated by Webroot had adware installed--down from 64 percent in the first quarter and 73 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. The report credited high-profile actions--such as the lawsuit brought by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer against Intermix--as helping to bring about a change in mindset among adware vendors.

But, while the total number of unwanted programs seems to be shrinking, the report concluded that some newer forms of adware are far more difficult to get rid of than in the past. "These more virulent adware programs often make removal more difficult to ensure their survival on a PC," stated the report.

Webroot also addressed tracking cookies in its study, reporting that 73 percent of consumer computers examined contained cookies. The report noted that the status of cookies within the industry remains subject to discussion. "The debate continues about whether or not cookies constitute spyware," stated the report, which noted that some online advertisers and consumers view cookies very differently.

"Many consumers have indicated that any type of application placed on their PC without their knowledge is spyware," stated the report. But the study also pointed out that online advertising companies that use tracking cookies say that programs that remove cookies hurt their efforts to analyze customers' sites.

Webroot stated that it will continue to monitor cookies in its quarterly reports for "as long as the discussion continues."

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