Security researcher Steve Gibson was testing intrusion-detection software on his computer when it suddenly warned him: A program he knew nothing about was trying to send data out to the internet.

Gibson thought he was familiar with all the programs on his computer. He was wrong. An uninvited guest had hitched a ride on another application he had installed, and it was there to retrieve and display ads.

"This thing was in my computer using the internet behind my back," said Gibson, founder of Gibson Research Corp. in Laguna Hills,

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