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What is Spyware?
Updated · Aug 01, 2023
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Spyware is any software that enters your computer device without your consent. It collects information about you or an organization. It then forwards data to other parties.
Online attackers and organized crimes can use spyware to reach their goals, according to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). From marketing strategies to nation-state surveillance of activists, spyware can affect people from different walks of life.
This is why it is important to understand the danger spyware can bring. In this article, discover what is spyware and how you can prevent it from infecting your device.
Types of Spyware
Spyware of all kinds gathers information for the attacker. The less dangerous types of spyware just watch and send data to a third party.
A more complicated and dangerous spyware can change a user's system and make it vulnerable to more risks.
Below are some of the common types of spyware:
1. Browser Hijackers
This type of spyware changes internet browsing parameters without your consent. It modifies your default search engine or web browser. There are two common types of browser hijackers:
Adware is advertising software that can put offline advertisements on your computer. It's harmful when adware pops up countless times and displays misleading links. Then it leads you to a website and installs different types of malicious software or malware on your computer.
A rootkit is a harmful piece of software that was made so that unwanted people could get into a computer or other software. Rootkits are hard to find and can hide in a system that has been hacked. Cyber crimes are on the rise and cybercriminals use rootkit software to break into your computer from afar, change it, and steal information.
Trojan horse virus or "Trojan" is one of the most dangerous viruses in computer history. It disguises itself as legit software and usually sneaks onto a user's device by pretending to be an email attachment or a freely available file.
After being installed, the harmful code will do what the attacker told it to do, such as giving the attacker unauthorized access to business networks, watching what users do online, or stealing confidential data.
Knowing the differences between viruses and worms on your devices can also help you take the necessary steps to fix them.
4. Cookie Trackers
While it differs from website to website, fraudsters put a tracking cookie in text form when you're on their page. Legitimate cookies gather data for advertising and web performance purposes. It prompts on your screen and allows you to accept or decline.
Internet tricksters abuse illegitimate cookie trackers. Using malicious software, they share your data with a third party without permission.
5. Web Beacons
Web beacons are clear images that are often 1x1 pixels in size. They track users in the same way that cookies do. Website owners use these to track how users move around on their sites.
These beacons can be sent through web browsers or emails, and they can be used with cookies to find out how a user acts on a site and how they connect with its content.
Illegitimate web beacons allow fraudsters to read your emails without notifications or consent.
6. Modem Hijacker
Modem hijacking became popular among cybercriminals in the early 1990s when telecom firms began offering dial-up internet connections. The hijacker clones the victim's modem's Media Access Control (MAC) address and redirects the internet connection to the attacker’s modem.
With the number of links over the internet, unsuspecting victims may click on strange advertisements or pop-up offers and download files from unfamiliar websites.
This can lead to attackers accessing their accounts. Many internet users were ignorant of these programming methods in the early days of the internet. Victims usually discovered modem hijacking after obtaining a bill with several unexpected costs.
7. Mobile Spyware or Stalkerware
Mobile spyware or stalker ware allows unseen tracking of your device's activities. Fraudsters can get images, videos, call records, text messages, and locations from your device. They can also have remote access to your mobile phone.
It may cause your private information to leak without your knowledge. It is important to understand how you can detect these viruses and spyware on your mobile device to avoid risking the security of your data.
8. Password Theft Spyware
Password stealers are harmful programs that people often accidentally install on their computers. Once they are installed, they collect private information without being seen.
Most of the time, they go after things like login information (usernames and passwords), credit card information, and other personal data. Some of these malicious programs can also add more software to the computer and/or add the computer to a botnet.
These types of spyware can infect users’ devices in many ways. It is important to understand how to protect yourself from spyware to lower the risk of identity theft.
How Spyware Infects Systems
Spyware affects any personal device like a phone, computer, Android, and iOs. Here are common ways how infection happens on your devices:
- Clicking email attachments from unknown people or fraudsters who appear legit
- Opening random downloaded materials from unknown sources
- Clicking accept or download buttons from pop-up ads
- Illegal downloading of movies, games, and music
- Not installing legit security software
- Downloading and installing software bundles that include a malicious plugin or add-on
Spyware infects your device when you click on misleading links. After those actions, the spyware then:
- Monitors activities or captures data
- Sell or sends the gathered data to a third party.
If you are curious as to whether you have malicious software on your device, checking for any symptoms of spyware infection may help you.
Symptoms of Spyware Infection
Here are common signs that fraudsters have remote access to your device:
- Your device is slower than usual.
- Pop-up advertisements are showing on your screen.
- New home pages and search engines that you don't remember making.
- Fast-draining battery.
- Fake websites pop up when you enter your usernames and passwords.
- The antivirus software or antispyware is not working.
- Installed apps are not from Google Play Store.
If you are using an Android phone, it is possible to stop pop-up advertisements. However, fraudsters who have access to your device may not only steal your information but also worsen your device’s performance. Understanding how to avoid spyware breaking into your data and ios or Android devices is crucial in keeping your data safe.
How to Prevent Spyware
Prevent any possible infection in the future. Below are tips to protect your device and yourself from malicious software:
#Step 1: Avoid giving information to strangers in chat apps
#Step 2: Don't open suspicious email attachments
#Step 3: Keep your device's operation and security system updated
#Step 4: Block and don't click popping advertisements
#Step 5: Don't open links from unknown numbers and verify the identity of who you are talking to online
#Step 6: Avail and use legit antivirus software or antispyware
Save your private information from unwanted leaking and the device from breaking. Yet, if there is already an infection, you can remove it from your device to prevent further damage.
Removing Spyware on Your Devices
Being infected by spyware can affect the performance of your devices. It can also put you at risk of identity theft. Knowing how to remove these unwanted viruses or spyware on your device is crucial to your experience.
Below are the steps on how you can remove spyware on your devices:
#Step 1: Reboot and choose the "Enable Safe Mode" feature on your computer
#Step 2: Delete any malicious files like images, folders, and programs
#Step 3: Empty the recycle bin
#Step 4: Run a legit spyware removal app or software
You may also remove spyware infection from your Android phone or iOs phone by installing antivirus software. It will block spyware from your phone and alert you for any actions it takes with your device.
If you have to reset your devices, antivirus software can also help you create a backup of your important files.
Spyware can be hard to detect, but there are symptoms you can watch out for. Preventing spyware infection can help you avoid poor system performance as well as identity theft. If you are able to recognize spyware, you can remove it from your device and avoid the risk of data breaches.
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