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If you are a jealous spouse, you must have thought the best way to monitor what your spouse does with their phone is by using spyware. Employers can also use spyware to track what their employees do on computers at work. This helps to boost productivity.
Some nations will also track the activities of their citizens.
But still, the question is what is the spyware, and how does it work on your device? Can spyware affect all operating systems, including Android devices, iOS, Windows, and Mac? Can you use anti-spyware to deal with the spyware issues, and can it offer real-time protection? Spyware is a type of malware, so check out these top anti malware software, or a Trojan virus protection. For all we know, you can never have too many options when it comes to your device's security, so check out the top internet security software and the best free antivirus software out there, to boot. Even the allegedly safest operating systems are not safe and that's why we look for the top-shelf antivirus for Linux, as well.
What Is a Spyware Definition?
Spyware is a type of malicious software that secretly tracks and observes network traffic and the activities on a particular device and sends the information to a third party. The information can be sold to data firms and marketers who will start sending you ads related to your activities.
Hackers can also use spyware to steal your personal information, including your credit card numbers, account numbers, etc. So, how can you tell if your computer is hacked?
Spyware is a malware that will gain access to your device without your knowledge and cause certain changes and damage your computer. It works by monitoring your internet activities, login information, passwords, and other sensitive data. Click here to find out how to prevent malware damage. Also, we recommend to read this dedicated article to various malware.
Other kinds of spyware, such as keylogger spyware, can install additional software in your device that will cause changes and can even access your device's security settings.
Therefore, you should keep your device updated and also use secure passwords on your devices and applications.
Types of Spyware
Spyware programs come in different forms, and each form uses different tactics to track and monitor you. And in case you've heard about malware too, check out our ''What is a computer worm?'' article. The different types of spyware include:
A Trojan is a form of malicious software that will disguise as a legitimate program to trick you into installing it. A third party controls a Trojan. Once it lands on your device, it will look for sensitive information such as the social security number, swipe card number, and bank account information.
The information they get is sold to third parties that can use it to make fraudulent purchases, steal money, or compromise accounts.
They also enable hackers to control your device by installing a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) or a backdoor.
Adware is not as harmful as other types of malware although it also has an impact on the performance of your device.
When adware gets in your device, it tracks your online activities and then sends you pop-up ads it thinks you'll be interested in based on your online activities.
Adware tracks different information including your browser history and downloads intending to predict the products you'd be interested in.
Keyloggers are a malicious type of malware that works by monitoring the keystrokes from your keyboard. The keyloggers can track everything you type on the keyboard, including sensitive information such as names and passwords that can lead to identity theft.
Keyloggers forms of spyware are available as software-based keyloggers or hardware-based keyloggers.
There are shopping sites that offer credits to websites for sending traffic to their site. Stealware is designed to take advantage of such sites.
If your website sends a user to any of those sites, stealware intercepts and takes the credit for referring the user to the site.
Stalkerware is a type of software installed on a mobile device to enable a third party to track it.
For instance, a jealous boyfriend or husband can install a stalkerware on the girlfriend or wife's mobile gadgets. The software will enable him to read their text messages, listen to their conversations, etc.
The system monitor is software types that record everything that is happening in a device including phone calls, keystrokes, websites visited, programs launched, emails, and chat room dialogues.
The malware can also monitor a system's processes to try and identify any vulnerabilities. Later on, it sends the data it gathered to a cybercriminal or snoop who may use it for various criminal activities.
How Spyware Works
Spyware programs can get in your device in several ways.
For instance, it can infect your device when you click on a malicious link that opens to a peculiar website.
The poisonous links can be in text messages, emails, pop-up ads, web pages, and pop-up windows of a browser.
Other times, you can get infected with malware even if you don't click on a malicious link. This may happen through malvertising, where an infected ad is delivered to a genuine website through legitimate ad networks.
The malicious code is embedded on the legitimate website, and your device gets infected when you open the website.
Spyware is also distributed by opening infected files saved in your computer hard drive. The files are disguised as legitimate and can be attached to emails disguised as coming from authoritative sources such as post office, bank, etc.
You can also be tricked into downloading and installing spyware on your device without knowing it is malware. The developer can tout the software as a worthy addition to your device, but it will contain malware. You can uninstall the software, but the spyware will be left on the system to continue tracking your activities.
Mobile devices can also get a spyware virus, although Google and Apple do their best to block spyware in their app stores. If you want to avoid spyware while using a mobile phone, ensure you only download and install apps from the official app stores. Third-party apps can be enticing and free while you have to purchase them if you go to the official app store. However, third-party apps are a rich breeding ground for spyware and other types of malware.
Social engineering remains to be the topmost method of spreading spyware. Spyware developers will trick a user into opening a website that exploits a browser's vulnerabilities and the user's interest in the website. By opening the website, the spyware automatically infects the device and starts snooping on the user.
How to Prevent Spyware
Use an Anti-spyware Software
If you have a reliable anti-spyware program or spyware removal tool, It will help flag apps that may be infected with spyware before you can download them. You can also run a scan using your spyware protection security software that will identify if there is any spyware already installed on your device.
An antivirus from a trusted source will help identify and eliminate viruses and other forms of malware, including spyware.
Ensure that the anti-spyware program you are using is legitimate software and it comes from a reputable vendor. Spyware developers can hide their malicious code in a bogus antivirus app.
In the same breath, ensure that you only download your software from trusted sources. Also, don't click on every link on your email and do not visit a malicious website.
Download Apps From Google and App Store
As a mobile phone user, you should ensure your security by downloading apps from the App Store for iOS users and Google Play Store for Android users.
Jailbreaking your iPhone also enhances your vulnerability to spyware attacks.
Avoid third-party apps even if they are cheaper than the original apps.
Keep Your Browser and Operating System Up-to-date
Even if you avoid opening email attachments and links and download apps from credible sources, you are still at risk of drive-by infections. Drive-by infections take advantage of vulnerabilities in your browser to infect your device.
It will therefore help a lot if you keep your browser and OS updated.
If your browser has an adblocker feature, you can enable it to prevent pop-ups, and they can also alert you when a website wants to launch a pop-up. Thus, you can decide whether you want to see it or not.
How to Remove Spyware
After trying to prevent the spyware from infecting your device, it might still get its way into the system.
If your browser is overpopulated with pop-up windows, or your device becomes unusually slow or crashes a lot, it can be a sign of spyware infection.
Getting rid of spyware is not the easiest undertaking, especially since the software is developed to be clandestine. Spyware programs are designed to hide any sign of presence, such as icons. Also, many come with names similar to those of real files, making it difficult to identify them.
Luckily, there are several software programs you can use to detect and remove spyware from your device. Some of the programs are free, which saves you the cost of purchasing an anti-spyware program.
Some of the software programs you can use include Avast Free Antivirus, Malwarebytes, Adaware, AVG Antivirus, among others.
Spyware infection on your phone may have the same symptoms as in a computer. The phone can start becoming sluggish and suffer from frequent crashes. Other signs include faster battery depletion, the phone may start turning itself off, an unexplained surge in data usage, and unusual text messages.
If you want to remove spyware from your phone, ensure you have the latest version of the OS. You can also back up data and files and reset the phone to factory settings, which will get rid of everything you have downloaded and installed, including the spyware.
You can also opt for computer programs used to scan spyware.
Spyware programs infect your computer or phone to snoop and track your online activities. There are different types of spyware programs that work differently, but the intention is to get your personal information, credit card numbers, bank account details, etc. Then, they sell the data to third parties who can use it to conduct fraudulent purchases and other cybercrimes.
Make sure to avoid downloading programs from unreliable sources. Also, ensure you are running the latest operating system and have an anti-spyware program to eliminate the malicious software.