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WASHINGTON – The continuing assault of spyware, adware and other intrusive programs on Internet users is having an effect, something credit union managers may want to keep aware of as they work to keep that channel open for communication and transactions with their members. A new report from an authoritative non-partisan research group shows that 91% of Internet users say they have changed their online behavior to avoid spyware, adware and other unwanted software being installed on their computers. The report from the Pew Internet & American Life project also shows that 81% of Internet users say they no longer open e-mail attachments they are unsure of, that 48% have stopped visiting particular Web sites because of fears of unwanted programs being downloaded, and 18% say they have started using a different Web browser. Interestingly, the report also shows that only 29% of active Internet users would say they “have a good idea of what phishing means.” Similar results were logged for understanding of the terms “spyware” and “adware”, which track online behavior for both legitimate and illegitimate purposes, but often without the user knowing it. The Pew Internet Project (PIP) report also shows that 68% (or about 93 million) of American Internet users (68% of them) have had computer trouble in the past year that is consistent with problems caused by spyware and viruses, though 60% of those who had problems were not sure where the problem originated “These survey results show that as Internet users gain experience with spyware and adware, they are more likely to say they are changing their behavior,” says PIP Associate Director Susannah Fox, the report’s author. “But what is more alarming is the larger universe of people who have struggled with mysterious computer problems, but have no idea why. Internet users are increasingly frustrated and frightened that they are not in charge of their Internet experience,” Fox says. The telephone survey was conducted among a sample of 1,336 Internet users and has a margin of error of plus or minus three points. The full report can be found at www.pewinternet.org.

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