Dell backs spyware education drive

PC maker and nonprofit partner aim to spread word about spyware--which most American PC owners don't know how to fix, they say.

John Borland Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Borland
covers the intersection of digital entertainment and broadband.
John Borland
Although as many as 90 percent of U.S. home computers have been infected with spyware at some time, a majority of PC owners don't know how to solve the problem, according to a poll released Friday.

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.