What is a Spyware?

Spyware is malicious software that infiltrates your computer to steal sensitive information. Spyware is a form of malware that gains access and causes damage to your systems, often without your knowledge.

Spyware collects a victim’s personal information and sends to advertisers, data firms, or other users.

Key Takeaways

  • Spyware is malicious software that infiltrates your computer to steal sensitive information
  • Spyware is a form of malware that gains access and causes damage to your systems, often without your knowledge
  • Cybercriminals can use personal information from spyware to steal personal identity
  • Spyware types include adware, trojan, tracking cookies, and system monitors
  • You get infected with spyware by accepting pop-ups, downloading software from untrustworthy sources, and opening email attachments from unknown senders
  • You can remove spyware by scanning your device using an anti-spyware removal tool

What Is Spyware Used For?

Hackers and other cyber actors use spyware from various purpose. The malicious software monitors your Internet activities, tracking confidential details like user credentials, credit card or bank account information. Cybercriminals can use data from spyware to steal your identity.

Attackers also use spyware programs to install other malicious software or change device configurations.

Types of Spyware

Different spyware types use unique tactics to track and steal information.

  • Adware – this spyware tracks your browser history and downloads to determine the products or service you are interested in. Adware displays advertisements for the same or related commodities to entice you to make a purchase. The malicious programs used for marketing purposes also slows down your devices
  • Trojan – the spyware disguises itself as a legitimate program. Trojan appears to be a Java or Flash Player update to trick users. However, third-parties, including cybercriminals, control trojans to steal sensitive such as credit card information and social security numbers
  • Tracking Cookies – these forms of spyware track a user’s web activities, such as searches, downloads, and history for marketing purposes
  • System Monitors – the spyware captures about everything you do on your computer. System monitors can capture all keystrokes, emails, chat-room dialogs, sites visited, and active applications. In most cases, cyber actors disguise system monitors as freeware

How Does Spyware Infect Your Device?

Spyware can infect your desktop, laptop, Macs, iOS, or Android device. Windows operating systems are more susceptible to attacks. However, current sophisticated attacks can infiltrate Apple’s operating systems as well as Linux.

Some ways you get infected with spyware include:

  • Accepting a pop-up on websites without reading it first
  • Downloading software and other security programs from unreliable sources
  • Opening email attachments and URLs from unknown senders
  • Pirating media like movies, music, or games

How Can I Tell if My Device Has Spyware?

As mentioned, spyware is difficult to detect. Cyber actors design this malicious program to be deceptive and difficult to find. However, you can use other clues to identify whether your device has malware.

Check out for the following symptoms:

  • Your computer is slow
  • Applications crashing unexpectedly
  • Your device’s hard drive runs out of space
  • You get products and offers pop-ups when online or offline

Not All Data Collection Tools are Spyware  

Not all data collection programs are spyware. Businesses and government agencies release tools to collect data as long as the user gives consent. Such tools help legitimate software vendors to improve their products or offer personalized support and features.

The line between illegal spyware and legitimate data collection tools is often drawn at cookies. Websites offer cookies as a method of tracking and storing information about your Internet behavior. As a necessary part of web browsing, cookies enable web developers and owners to give you a more personal, convenient browsing experience. The programs make it possible for websites to remember you, your logins, shopping carts, and more.

Removing Spyware

Run a scan using security software to clean your system and deactivate spyware programs. You can purchase a reputable anti-spyware removal tool to run the scans.

Preventing Spyware Attacks

  • Do not open links and email attachments from unknown senders
  • Do not download applications, pirated media, and games from untrustworthy sources
  • Avoid clicking unnecessary pop-up advertisements
  • Use updated security products such as antivirus, antimalware, and anti-spyware. Anti-spyware programs scan your computer and block malicious tracking software in real-time