Most falling prey to spyware

Only 3 percent of the online population are able to avoid unsolicited downloads while surfing, according to results of a spyware quiz.

Web surfers are too complacent when it comes to protecting themselves against adware, spyware and other unsolicited downloads, according to a recent survey.

Out of over 14,000 online users who participated in the Spyware Quiz, on McAfee's SiteAdvisor Web site, only 3 percent were able to steer clear of undesirable downloads.

The pit holes are the failure to read the fine print and to be overly trusting of sites that contain advertising from trusted sources or well-known brands, McAfee said in a statement on Friday. Web surfers are also prone to classifying Web sites that have an uncluttered look as safe.

"We know it's not easy to judge a site's safety just by looking at it, but that's the point: Bad sites are often very good at providing an aura of safety," said Chris Dixon, who heads McAfee's SiteAdvisor development. "No matter how knowledgeable or perceptive you are, you can't rely on your instincts alone."

The quiz comes in two parts--users first have to identify a safe site each from different pairs of Web sites, and then pick those that did not contain any adware and spyware from a series of file sharing Web sites.

The examples were taken from more than 3 million Web sites that have been rated by SiteAdvisor, which was acquired by McAfee earlier this month. They fall into categories of Web sites associated with adware and spyware distribution--file sharing sites; sites offering free games; lyrics sites; sites offering screensavers; and sites offering "smiley" icons.

The responses to the quiz, Dixon added, also showed that Web surfers fail to recognize that "there are safe sites" in the listed categories.