Spyware affects Middle East most, new research finds

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By  Published  August 31, 2006

Spyware poses an increasing threat to internet users, according to two new studies released this month.

Research by Webroot Software, the anti-spyware developer, found that spyware infection rates have risen to the highest levels since 2004, with PCs in the Middle East among the worst affected.

Its latest State of Spyware report found that during the second quarter of this year, 89% of consumer PCs were infected with an average of 30 pieces of spyware. This marked a slight increase from Q1 06, after a dip in infection rates during 2005.

The report suggests that new distribution channels, advanced spyware technologies and a reliance on free antispyware programmes are all contributing factors to the increase.

More than 40 security breaches were reported by enterprises during the last quarter, according to Webroot, despite estimates by industry experts that 70% of corporations use an anti-spyware solution.

The firm also found that infection rates for system monitors and Trojans, the most damaging types of spyware, remained steady during the last two quarters.

Yemen had the highest rate of system monitors of any country, with 426 per 1,000 PCs scanned.

Although PCs in Puerto Rico had the highest number of spyware infections - an average of 42.6 per scanned PC - Algeria and Bahrain were next, with averages of 38.4 and 35.7 respectively.

Separate studies by McAfee found that in May 2006 there were more than 700 adware families with more than 6,000 variants. A recent survey by McAfee's SiteAdvisor found that 97% of internet users could not differentiate safe sites from unsafe sites, putting them at risk of downloading unwanted programmes.

"The emergence of lucrative online affiliate-marketing business models and the widespread ease with which adware and spyware can be spread have made them prominent features in the threat landscape," said Patrick Hayati, regional managing director Middle East, McAfee.

"Since 2003, when adware and spyware emerged as dominant threats in the security environment, to 2006, we have seen the number of adware families rise by 448%, demonstrating a sharp increase over the last several years."

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