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Sizing up spyware

Software designed to monitor Web surfers' behavior and bombard the PC with pop-up ads is a thriving business. And at least one anti-spyware researcher is trying to pinpoint just how much money adware makers are raking in from those pop-ups and other types of ads. Richard Stiennon, chief technology officer at anti-spyware software company Webroot, has estimated ads sales generated by adware are $1.6 billion.

He calculates this figure by delving into revenues reported by Claria, one of the top adware distributors, and Avenue Media. Claria, whose software is on roughly 40 million PCs, makes about $90 million in revenue annually. Avenue Media, with software installed on 2 million machines, reports $7 million annually. Stiennon calculates that as an average of $2.95 per-infection-per-year.

With an estimated 280 million active computers on the Web and the potential for two pieces of adware on the average users' PC, he tallies $1.6 billion.