Spyware: Downpour or drizzle? From Mary Landesman, Jan 7 2005 The headline of an August 2004 press release from EarthLink screams, "TWO MILLION SCANS UNCOVER 55 MILLION INSTANCES OF SPYWARE". And the same source reports that as of Sept 27, 2004, a total of 3,219,855 had uncovered an average of 26 traces of spyware per scan. But the EarthLink report, compiled in partnership with Webroot Software - the developer of Spy Sweeper - when read carefully reveals the problem may be far less significant. The third quarter EarthLink/Webroot report states that 3,219,855 spyware scans were performed in the nine month period beginning January 1, 2004. Of those scanned, 83,422,785 traces of spyware were found. But 64,995,753 of those, or 20 traces per scan, were cookies. Of the remaining 6, five were from adware (advertising supported software) and only .31 (or 1.2%) were from spyware or Trojans. This isn't to say that spyware is not a problem. Those who do become impacted by spyware often contend with multitudes of pop-up windows, frequent (and frequently spyware-forced) browser and system crashes, and a general slowdown in Internet connectivity such that online activities slow to a crawl. Even worse, these same users often fall victim to ads for Internet optimizers, systerm performance tools and even antispyware apps that promise to solve their problems but instead serve even more ads and monitoring software to the system. (In October 2004, self-professed spam king Sanford Wallace was charged by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for foisting spyware on users in just such a fashion). An entire industry has cropped up to combat the spyware problem, from free tools such as HijackThis! that help pinpoint problem areas, to retail anti-spyware scanners that detect and remove offenders. Now the latest entry to the anti-spyware arena is Microsoft – often a target of critics who blame weaknesses in the Internet Explorer browser and Windows operating system as a direct cause of spyware. In mid-December 2004, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Giant Software, a developer of anti-spyware technology; on January 6th, 2005, Microsoft released their first public beta of Microsoft AntiSpyware.