The findings come in a report from the newly formed Consumer Spyware Initiative, a joint effort by Dell Computer and the nonprofit Internet Education Foundation that aims to increase awareness of spyware.
Spyware is a term used to describe software that can monitor user behavior and display unwanted advertising. It can often significantly slow down a computer. The new initiative hopes to reach 63 million American Internet users over the next year to show them how to identify and eliminate spyware infections, its backers said.
"We've been focused on arming our customers with the information and tools they need to combat this problem," said Mike George, general manager of Dell's U.S. Consumer Business, in a statement. "Through this process, we've seen that education is our best counterintelligence against the threat of spyware."
The spyware issue has been increasingly visible in news and policy circles over the past month. The Federal Trade Commission filed its first lawsuit against an alleged spyware distributor last week, and Congress is close to passing several bills regulating the practice.
The Internet Education Foundation's Web site has recommendations for minimizing the impact of the potentially annoying software.