A survey of about 2,000 internet users in the U.S. showed that more than 84 percent believe they are victims of spyware.
Recently released by privacy firm the Ponemon Institute, the survey also showed that most people download free software on the internet, such as music players and screen savers - software that often comes with adware and sometimes spyware, researchers said.
At the same time, most users do not want potential anti-spyware laws to prevent them from obtaining free software, the survey indicated.
Most of the 1,944 respondents did not have a clear understanding of the differences between adware and spyware. Forty-two percent said they had no idea how spyware ended up on their system. Most said they do not read end-user licensing agreements (EULA), describing them as too complex and confusing.
The web-based survey was sponsored by the Unisys Security Leadership Institute.
In other world news, Australia is leading the fight against malware by introducing tough new anti-spyware laws. The bill, if passed, will bring fines of up to $10,000 per incident.