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Spyware, Adware Are Hot Topics At RSA Security Conference

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Unwanted programs that spy on PC users, deliver pop-up ads and track Web surfing habits will be a hot topic at a security conference that's usually more focused on viruses, hackers and the encryption of sensitive information.

So-called spyware and adware have been around for years but have largely been viewed as more of an annoyance than a security threat. Such programs are often installed on PCs when users agree to a license for free software without reading it, though later versions take advantage of flaws in Web browsers and operating systems.

Recently the problem has developed into a major headache not only for home users whose PCs choke on a flurry of pop-up windows but also corporate computer users who run the risk of lost productivity and pilfered data from such programs.

Spyware and adware ``have gone past the point of annoying to really becoming cost centers for corporations,'' said Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of Cisco Systems Inc.'s security technology group. ``They are where viruses used to be five to 10 years ago.''

More than 11,000 people were expected at the RSA Conference in San Francisco this week. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates was to deliver the opening speech on Tuesday. Other speakers include Symantec Corp. Chief Executive John Thompson and Cisco CEO John Chambers.

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