According to the latest report from anti-spyware vendor Webroot, the arena of surreptitious online data gathering and advertising is worth billions to those involved. And that estimate does not include anyone making their way trying to stop it. We already knew there must be money in it, but estimating how much was anyones’ guess.
The Register put in another way: Spyware scumbags make $2bn a year. They questioned the actually figures (as do I), noting that normal distributions were applied in the survey, and that Webroot’s numbers lump tracking cookies into the mix as well. If you throw the cookie issue out, the numbers are still disturbing.
Roughly 55% of corporate PC’s contained some form of spyware, and consumer PCs averaged seven infections a piece. Of the most nasty unwanted residents, key loggers (the software that tracks every key you type and every place you click) were found on 7% of all computers, and trojans (the bugs that make your machine do things you didn’t want to do, by sneaking in as some game or, in some cases, an anti-virus program) were on 19% and 7% of consumer and enterprise machines, respectively.
Techdirt didn’t think quite so highly of the Webroot report, calling it a means for the company to justify its own over-valued existence. I am going to call them on the carpet here – the company might not be worth quite the $100+ million that they just took in (extrapolated, in purely financial present value terms), but that doesn’t mean that there is not a significant amount of value to be had. Their spyware offering not only works, but I suspect that the acknowledgement of that fact can be a big confidence booster for the online community. A lack of trust due to the proliferation of scams can have ominous effects, and any effort to correct that gets a thumbs up from Spamroll. Whether Webroot can parlay that into monetary value is up to management – obviously, their investors think management is up to the task.