AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhy these photogenic dumplings are popping up in Los AngelesSpyware can track a computer user’s Internet surfing habits or collect personal information without their knowledge. In this case, technology titans Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc., along with anti-spyware firm Webroot Software Inc., helped the government by analyzing the malicious software codes and files. The FTC tapped Microsoft because the pop-ups claimed to be from the world’s largest software maker. Google was brought in because an affiliate of the defendants allegedly operated a blog that offered music files to other blogs, but instead infected them with the Enternet code, Spivack said. “PC manufacturers say that 50 percent or more of their support calls are spyware-related,” said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research. Webroot researchers last month reported that 89 percent of consumer PCs were infected with an average of 30 pieces of spyware. The Boulder, Colo.-based company has identified more than 527,000 malicious Web sites, an increase of 100,000 compared with the first quarter. Many consumers still don’t use anti-spyware programs or do not keep them updated, and others do not realize they’re downloading malicious software when they sign up at various sites to send greeting cards or install a new search toolbar, Wilcox said. WASHINGTON – Federal regulators said Thursday that 18 million computer users worldwide – half of them in the United States – were affected by malicious spyware allegedly distributed by parties that agreed the day before to a $2 million settlement. Analysts and government officials said huge hurdles remain in containing the problem. The Federal Trade Commission’s settlement against two California companies and three individuals was the second-biggest ever made by the agency, bringing the running total to about $8 million in settlements with more than a dozen companies over the past two years. “In terms of breadth and perniciousness … this was probably the most widespread infection we’ve dealt with,” said Mona Spivack, lead attorney on the case. The FTC’s settlement involved Enternet Media Inc., Conspy & Co. Inc., Lida Rohbani, Nima Hakimi and Baback Hakimi. Microsoft and Webroot offer anti-spyware programs and numerous companies sell anti-spyware programs, including McAfee Inc., Trend Micro Inc., CA Inc., and Symantec Corp. In the settlement announced this week, the FTC alleged that the defendants’ Web sites caused “installation boxes” to pop up on computer screens offering free music files, cell phone ring tones, photographs, desktop wallpaper and song lyrics.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!