EarthLink is terming spyware as code that is downloaded onto a user's harddrive via files from peer-to-peer networks and either functions as adware, by launching a pop-up assault without permission, or it monitors computer user habits in sometimes invasive and illegal ways.
Earthlink and Webroot Software underwent a recent experiment in which they performed 1.6 million scans on subscriber computers and uncovered an estimated 29.1 spyware downloads, averaging around 28 spyware instances per computer.
Statistics state that 90 percent of all broadband users have had spyware secretly downloaded onto their computers.
Earthlink is calling the spyware epidemic a serious threat to users.
"This figure represents how real a threat identity theft or system corruption is for users," the ISP said in a statement.
As Congress continues to review legislation that would outlaw spyware and adware, individual states are working on their own solutions to the growing threat. Utah legislators are the first lawmakers to enact an anti-spyware law called The Spyware Control Act, which is set to take effect May 3.
The Spyware Control Act bars companies from installing software that reports its users' online actions, sends any personal data to other companies, or uses pop-up advertisements without permission.
Similarly, Congress is reviewing a bill called Spyblock (Software Principles Yielding Better Levels of Consumer Knowledge) that would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorneys general.