Users Downloading Less Adware

NEW YORK A leading spyware-removal firm reported the amount of adware programs it found on consumer computers dropped in the first quarter.

According to Webroot, a Boulder, Colo.-based maker of spyware-removal software, it found adware on 64 percent of computers it scanned in the first quarter, down from 73 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004. The average computer with adware had 6.9 copies of it, constant with the previous quarter.

The firm attributed the lower adware figures to consumer awareness of advertising software that often come bundled with free software, such as file-sharing programs. Webroot estimates the adware market generates up to $2 billion annually.

The most prevalent adware program found was CoolWebSearch, which Webroot found on 8.2 percent of computers, the same level as the prior quarter. Webroot tracked a decline in distribution for Claria’s GAIN software, which it distributes with the Kazaa file-sharing program. GAIN was on 2.2 percent of scanned computers, compared to 2.6 percent in Q4 2004.

Similarly, Webroot tracked a decline in distribution of 180Solutions’ 180search Assistant, which was found on 2 percent of scanned computers compared to 2.6 percent in the previous quarter.

Webroot tabbed CoolWebSearch, which often redirects a user’s home page to its search engine, as its “top threat” for Q1 2005. Over the last five quarters, the firm has tracked 17 variations of CoolWebSearch.