Spyware refers to malicious software that is created to enter your computer device, steal your data, and send it to a third party without letting you know it. For example, spyware can be used to steal your account passwords and credit card numbers, which can lead to identity theft and fraud.
However, there are some legit uses of spyware. For example, they can be used to track commercial practices such as online advertising. You might use them to track the activity of your employees over computers and mobile devices.
More than 90% of computers worldwide are infected with some type of spyware without the knowledge of its users. With the help of this malicious software, hackers can gain access to your personal information and use it to steal your money, files, and even your identity.
How Does Spyware Work?
Keep in mind that, unlike a computer virus, spyware does not damage files or interrupt the operation of your PC.
Instead, it stealthily monitors your information and then pass it on to its creator or sometimes a third party. And so a damaged computer could even be counterproductive to its goal, as that could make your system unable to run and, in turn, make spyware unable to do what it was designed to do: steal your data.
Spyware infiltrates a system silently, disguised as just another piece of healthy software. Other times, when you visit an infected website, you will run a script that will ask your browser to download the spyware to your device.
Who is most vulnerable to these malicious programs?
Cybercriminals use spyware to sneakily obtain confidential information from individuals and businesses. Frequent online banking users are especially attractive targets for hackers looking for financial data, either to use themselves or to sell to other criminals.
Companies must specifically monitor spyware to protect their operations and, perhaps more importantly, prevent a highly effective corporate spyware tool from entering their network.
Some totalitarian governments also use spyware to secretly monitor journalists and human rights activists.
In general, we can all be victims of spyware if we use a computer, tablet, smartphone or smart device. Some types of spyware also infect mobile phones through applications such as Skype. A highly advanced variant exploits a WhatsApp vulnerability to infect mobile devices even if the victim does not answer the attacker’s call.
How to Tell If My Computer has Spyware?
Like we have said before, what makes spyware so threatening is that you don’t have any idea if the spyware is in your device.
However, since hackers tend to bundle spyware with Trojans and malicious adware, there are a few signs to watch out for.
The first tell-tale sign of spyware is the sluggish speed of your device or when the device becomes slower than normal. Spyware requires a lot of power and bandwidth to process stolen data, so it tends to significantly slow down your device.
Another indication of being infected with spyware is suddenly seeing a disproportionate number of pop-up ads, even when not browsing the web.
Lastly, keep an eye out for changes to your home screen, or new toolbars or search engines that you didn’t actually download or install.
How to Remove Spyware?
Use the best antivirus software to run a scan of your computer and quarantine or delete any infected or compromised files that you find.
As with any other cybersecurity threat, fostering good browsing habits is the best way to keep your computer and personal information safe. Because spyware is most frequently distributed via malicious emails and websites, you should not open any attachments or click on links in suspicious emails or messages that you receive on social media. Some programs allow you to choose not to install bundled spyware, so be sure to read the instructions carefully when installing the software on your PC.
Finally, even if your computer shows no signs of spyware infection, you should scan it for potential threats at least once a week. With the best antivirus software, you can schedule a weekly scan so you don’t have to manually start it each time. These programs also offer real-time protection against a wide range of threats, from viruses and worms to spyware and ransom ware. Plus, they automatically check the virus and malware database for updates every day to ensure optimal protection.