Technology

Spyware – what it is, what are the symptoms and how to defend yourself

Spyware is one type of malware that you definitely don’t want on your computer or other device. As the name suggests, spyware is designed to track your behavior and use that information to guess your password. Check out everything you need to know about spyware and privacy.

What is spyware?

Spyware works at rest on your device, collecting information and sending it to hackers. It can also scan your files, install other spyware, modify your internet settings, and open the door to other malware. Hackers install spyware for many reasons:

  • Information about your online behavior can be useful to marketers
  • A hacker can steal your payment card information, obtain passwords or other private data
  • A hacker may obtain photos or videos through your webcam
  • It may also be spying on employees

Additionally, spyware works in ways that the user shouldn’t notice. The longer it can operate unnoticed, the more chance it has to obtain some data for the attackers that may be useful for a later attack.

Types of spyware

Trojans

A banking Trojan pretends to be a legitimate and harmless application. Hackers can create a fake bank login page and capture your details without you having the slightest idea.

Stalkerware

Stalkerware is designed to steal GPS information, text messages, photos, contacts, browsing and call history. There are a number of easy-to-use apps that can be installed on a victim’s device by anyone with almost no technical knowledge, be it a jealous spouse, business partner or employer.

Taking control of the internet browser

The attacker changes your internet settings and starts bombarding you with unwanted ads. It also spies on you in the background, collecting data about your online habits and selling it to marketers. This browser can also easily be infected by other malware.

Keyloggers

Keyloggers record keystrokes to obtain information such as name, address, passwords or financial details. Keyloggers are commonly used to monitor the internet activities of children or employees.

How to tell if you have spyware on your device

Spyware disguises itself well and is difficult to spot. Watch out for these signs:

  • More ads and pop-ups annoying you
  • Your browser’s homepage has changed without your help
  • Your device is slow or crashes
  • New app icons appear
  • Your browser redirects you to pages you didn’t want to visit

How to remove spyware

To find spyware on Android, iOS, macOS, or Windows, follow these recommendations:

  • Disconnect from the Internet so that spyware can’t send any information to hackers
  • Restart your device in safe mode. This will boot the system without running third-party programs
  • Check all programs, and remove those you did not install – we recommend checking on another device for system programs that are important for the device to run
  • Run an antivirus program
  • Change your passwords

How to prevent spyware from getting on your device

Don’t click on suspicious links or ads

Spyware takes many forms: as an email attachment, a pop-up or a link. If something looks strange, it probably is. Don’t click on anything suspicious, and if strange pop-ups like “You’ve won a new iPhone, click here” and the like start popping up on the web, leave immediately. To minimize the risk, you can add a pop-up blocker to your browser.

Keep your system up to date

While it’s tempting to put off updates, we don’t recommend you do so. Developers are constantly improving security by fixing vulnerabilities that hackers look for. If you’re running an old version of your operating system or antivirus software, chances are that criminals already know about its flaws and can use them against you.

Don’t download files from suspicious sources

Be careful when downloading files from the internet – you could get a nasty surprise. Hackers can attach spyware to files, upload them as bait and wait patiently for you to arrive. The Internet is flooded with free software, which is actually a way to get into your system.

Use antivirus software

Computers, phones and tablets have built-in security features. However, if you want to increase your security, we recommend installing antivirus software and carefully monitoring the status of your device.

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