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Spyware industry worth billions

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According to the State of Spyware Report, issued by security software maker Webroot, the number of computers infected with spyware applications remains relatively high despite growing awareness of the epidemic and modest success in controlling it. Webroot's independent research and data gathered by its Spy Audit service, which uses software designed to look for spyware, showed that 88 percent of the consumer machines in the study harboured some form of unwanted program during the first quarter of 2005.

Among businesses, Webroot found similarly overwhelming results, with spyware on 87 percent of all the corporate PCs it studied. Despite the staggering number of computers infected by spyware, Webroot said, the infection rate actually has diminished since 2004, when it found an average of almost 28 spyware programs on each PC it scanned during the first quarter.

"Clearly there's a growing awareness of the spyware issue, but that has not translated into any kind of rapid decline in the programs," said David Moll, chief executive of Webroot. "When you see the lawsuits, legislation and other forms of attention being given to spyware, there's reason to hope the situation will improve, but people need to take an aggressive approach to fighting it if real progress is going to be made."

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