Feeds

Adware-infected PCs net slimeware firms $3 a pop

Is the market really that big?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Adware infections net the purveyors of slimeware software around $3 a year for each infected PC, according to estimates from anti-spyware firm Webroot Software. Using this figure and stats from its own malware auditing services, Webroot guesstimates the illicit advertising market underpinned by adware infection of home and business PCs could be worth up to $1.6bn a year.

According to Richard Stiennon, VP of threat research at Webroot, the illicit ad market enjoys approximately the same growth rate as the legitimate market. But that's where the similarities end. "It [adware] has a similar bus model and some of the same affiliates as the spam industry. Adware is not just used to serve up ads for penis pills though. Sometimes legitimate companies - whether they realise it or not - purchase ad views from adware firms," he said.

It's hard to square Webroot's $1.6bn estimate with the observable size of adware market. The company looks to be on much firmer ground in working out how much adware agent makes its owner, because its assumptions derive from the public disclosure of firms operating in the market.

Stiennon notes that adware company Avenue Media claims the 2m PCS running its software brought in $7m of revenue per year in its lawsuit against rival DirectRevenue, whose VX2 package allegedly disables Avenue Media's software. Claria (the firm formerly known as Gator) revealed that its software was loaded onto 40m PCs, bringing in $90m in revenue a year in public fillings made in 2003.

From these two data points we get an estimate that each item of adware generates between $2.25 and $3.50 per year from each infected PC. That's an average of $2.95 per-infection-per-year, Stiennon says in a recent opinion piece on CIO Update. But simply averaging the two figures is a questionable statistical assumption and worse is to follow.

Stat attack

Webroot's spy audit suggests an average PC on the net (whatever that is) has at "least two pieces of adware on it". ClickZ Stats indicate that there are 280m active PCs on the internet. Multiplying the number of PCs by the average number of adware items on each by the revenue per app figure allows Stiennon to guesstimate that the illicit advertising market is worth $1.6bn a year.

This calculation assumes a uniform distribution of spyware, among other statistical sins. Estimates on the damage caused by malware are a notoriously inexact science. The same seems to apply to looking at the adware market.

Stiennon told El Reg that machines loaded with more than three pieces of adware slow down to the extent they are less effective cash generators. This may be the case but we remain unconvinced about Webroot's headline figure for the illicit ad market of $1.6bn, which it compares to the $10bn a year pulled in by Google, Yahoo! DoubleClick et al. ®

Related stories

Corporate PCs 'riddled with spyware'
IE exploits top web security threat list
Webroot: Spyware is Windows-only
US moves towards anti-spyware law
The average PC: spyware hotel

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.