What is spyware and what does it do?

Spyware is malicious software that seeks to gather information from a person or an organization and communicate it to a different party in a way that’s harmful to the user. In short, spyware steals data from your device in numerous ways; it can take screenshots, use your camera, and log what you type. Spyware is very sneaky; it finds its way to your computer without your knowledge, and it stays hidden, running quietly in your background, collecting information, and monitoring your activities, and then it passes the information to its masters. Some of the most common types of data spyware steals are:

  • Credit card information
  • Banking credentials
  • Passwords and usernames
  • Personal documents
  • Information about your online activity

In addition to stealing your personal data, spyware frequently causes system and connectivity slowdowns. Additionally, it can download new malware and change the security settings on your device. Also, you may notice more advertising and pop-up windows. 

What are the different types of spyware?

Once a spyware program is into your device, it can spy on you and steal your information in various ways. 

  1. Keyloggers: Keyloggers, also known as system monitors, are made to record anything you type on the keyboard of your computer. They can easily steal passwords, bank account numbers, and other important information. Attackers might even be able to gather printed papers from linked printers, which they might subsequently send to a distant server or store locally for later retrieval. Despite not being prohibited by design, keyloggers can be used as surveillance software to steal your sensitive data.
  2. Password stealers: Applications called password stealers are made to collect passwords from affected machines. These passwords may be stored on the infected device in a location that the attacker chose or be sent to a remote server for retrieval.
  3. Banking Trojans: Malware specifically made to steal your banking credentials, online financial portals, digital wallets, etc.  
  4. Infostealers: As the name spoils info stealers seek out a variety of your personal information, such as usernames, log files, important documents, browser history, etc.

How can spyware infect your device?

Spyware can infect your device in a lot of ways. Here are a few of spyware’s main techniques;

  1. Phishing: The most common way to get infected with malware is by clicking an email attachment or link. 
  2. Trojans: Spyware frequently comes on your computer as a Trojan (hyperlink). Nowadays, cybercriminals often use Trojans to spread viruses, ransomware, cryptojackers, and other forms of malware. 
  3. Software bundles: Installing a free software (freeware) you found on the internet, may seem appealing but it is a really bad idea. These seemingly free products may contain malicious software, intended to track you and gather private information without your permission. 
  4. Security vulnerabilities: Spyware can potentially gain access through software flaws, particularly those in browsers.

How can I protect myself from spyware?

Having spyware on your computer is not fun at all. You must do your best to protect yourself from it. 

  1. Use antivirus software: Antivirus performs automatic spyware cleanup and prevents viruses from infiltrating your device. Keep your firewalls turned on as well to remain spyware-free. Be careful: you must use a trustworthy antivirus program (Tip: Find one that offers real-time security so that spyware can be automatically blocked).
  2. Don’t download shady apps and programs: Spyware often hides within another app. So, you must only download apps you trust; and always scan them before opening them.
  3. Don’t open links and attachments before double checking: Always check the sender of an email, and never download an attachment from an unknown one. Also, have an eye for phishing!
  4. Mouse-over links before clicking on them: Before clicking a link, hover it to make sure you’re going to the appropriate website. Maybe the hyperlink leads you to a malware download.  
  5. Keep your software and operating systems updated: Don’t let spyware take advantage of security issues within apps or operating systems. Be sure that you have the most recent version – the best way to do that is by enabling automatic updates on your device.

Cyberattacks are very common and very dangerous. You must stay protected. Don’t miss any of our articles and inform yourself to maintain a secure digital life!

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