A study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that more than 90 percent of U.S. Internet users have changed their online usage habits due to the increasing threat of spyware and viruses.

“Internet users are increasingly frustrated and frightened that they are not in charge of their Internet experience,” said Susannah Fox, an associate director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Some 91 percent of Internet users have changed the way they use the Net in trying to avoid unwanted and invasive software, the survey found.

Key findings of the survey including more than 1,300 users include:

  • 81 percent of Internet users say they have stopped opening email attachments unless they are sure these documents are safe.

  • 48 percent of Internet users say they have stopped visiting particular Web sites that they fear might deposit unwanted programs on their computers.

  • 25 percent of Internet users say they have stopped downloading music or video files from peer-to-peer networks to avoid getting unwanted software programs on their computers.

  • 18 percent of Internet users say they have started using a different Web browser to avoid software intrusions.
  • “Familiarity breeds contempt when it comes to spyware,” Fox added. “The more Internet users know about these programs, the more they want to sound the alarm and take steps to protect themselves.

    “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,” she added. “But what is more alarming is the larger universe of people who have struggled with mysterious computer problems, but have no idea why.”

    For details, see: www.pewinternet.org/press_release.asp?r=108