Allison Smith will never forget the week before Memorial Day 2005.
Roaming the Internet looking for some free clip art, Smith found a site that looked perfect. But before she could download as much as an icon, her PC was infested with adware.
"All of a sudden I was besieged with pop-up ads," says Smith, a CPA who runs an accounting firm in Conway, Arkansas. "Boom boom boom boom boom--I had so many Internet Explorer windows [open] that they completely stalled my computer."
Many of the ads Smith saw on her desktop bore a calling card from their creator: an adware program called Aurora, made by New York-based Direct Revenue.
Using another computer, Smith googled "Aurora" to learn more. She ineffectively tried using anti-spyware programs to remove it, tried killing the adware using Task Manager, and eventually hired a computer technician, who spent three days (at $50 an hour) trying to fix the problem. Each time he removed the software, she says, it would automatically reinstall itself under a different name.
Between repairs and lost revenue from downtime, Smith says her adware debacle cost her close to $5000. "What really surprised me was that the ads were from reputable companies, names you'd recognize," she says. "I got really angry that legitimate businesses would advertise their products using a program like this."