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What Is Spyware? | How To Detect and Remove This Malicious Software

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 malicious software that secretly tracks and observes network security, 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. It was first used in 1995 by Usenet that criticized Microsoft. Later, Gregor Freund, founder of Zone Labs, used the term in 2000 in reference to a software program launched by ton company, Mattel.

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?

man behind the laptop

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 credentials, passwords, and other sensitive data. Click here to find out how to prevent malware damage. Also, we recommend to go through this dedicated article to various malware and this read on importance of protecting your business in cyberspace.

Other kinds of spyware, such as keylogger spywarecan 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 gadget.

When adware gets in your gadget, 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 like Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Chrome history and downloads intending to predict the products you'd be interested in.

computer worm


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 websites 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.

bank card


Stalkerware is a type of software installed on a mobile 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.

System Monitors 

The system monitor is software types that record everything that is happening in a gadget including phone calls, keystrokes, websites visited, programs launched, emails, and chat room dialogues.

The malware can also monitor system resources and processes to try and identify, gather data any security vulnerabilities. Later on, it sends the data it gathered to a cybercriminal or snoop who may use it for various criminal activities.

typing on samsung laptop

How Spyware Works

Spyware programs can get in your gadget in several ways.

For instance, it can infect your devices when you click on a malicious link that opens to a peculiar website.

The poisonous links can be in text messages, emails, pop-up advertisements, 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 gadget gets infected when you open the website.

Spyware is also distributed by opening infected files from the infected computers and 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.
As a result, infected devices may perform unwanted behavior, degrade system performance such as slow and lag while switching between applications or browsing the web.

adware alert

You can also be tricked into downloading and installing spyware on your gadget without knowing it is malware. The developer can tout the software as a worthy addition to your gadget, 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 applications 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 applications 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 site that exploits a browser's vulnerabilities and the user's interest in the site. By opening the site, the spyware automatically infects the gadget and starts snooping on the user.

How to Prevent Spyware 

Use an Anti-spyware Software

If you have a reliable anti-virus protection 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 gadget. 

An antivirus from a trusted source will help identify and eliminate viruses and other forms of malware, including spyware. Here's our article on how antivirus works.

Ensure that the anti-virus protection 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 sites. Also, don't click on every link on your email and do not visit a malicious site. 

best antivirus

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 gadget.

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 site wants to launch a pop-up. Thus, you can decide whether you want to see it or not. Additionally, your browser settings may not be sufficient to protect you from spyware. As a result, you must adjust browser security settings according to the browser you are using. The primary objective is to ensure that your browser blocks all suspicious pop-up windows, websites, and plugins in order to keep you safe.

How to Remove Spyware 

After trying to prevent the spyware from infecting your gadget, it might still get its way into the system.

If your browser is overpopulated with pop-up windows, or your machine 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.

check out hp monitor

Luckily, there are several software programs you can use to detect and remove spyware from your machine. Some of the programs are free, which saves you the cost of purchasing an anti-virus protection.

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 instant messages.

If you want to remove spyware from your phone, ensure you have the latest version of the OS. You can also back up private 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 software 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 competing spyware programs.


1. What is spyware in computer?

Spyware is a broad term that refers to malicious software that is designed to infiltrate your computer, collect information about you, and send it to a third party without your consent. Additionally, the term spyware can refer to legitimate software that monitors your data for commercial purposes, such as advertising.

2. What are examples of spyware?

There are a few examples of spyware viruses that one may encounter. One is known as the keylogger virus, which logs all of your keystrokes so that the person who installed the virus can see your passwords, usernames, and other sensitive information. Another example is the Trojan horse virus, which disguises itself as something else (usually a harmless-looking file) in order to trick you into downloading it.

3. How does a spyware work?

Spyware is a type of malware that is designed to track or collect information about a computer user without their knowledge or consent. It can be installed on a computer through a variety of means, including but not limited to: malicious websites, infected email attachments, and software downloads. Spyware can collect a variety of information about a user, including but not limited to: their internet browsing habits, usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, and contact information.

4. How common is spyware?

Around 80% of all Internet users have spyware on their system, approximately 93 percent of spyware components are present on each computer, and roughly 89 percent of computer users are unaware of their presence.

5. How do you detect spyware on your computer?

HijackThis is a Microsoft Windows diagnostic tool for detecting the presence of spyware on your computer. To run the installer, double-click it. Then, launch the software once it has been installed. Other freeware programs, such as Adaware or MalwareBytes, will also operate similarly.

About Dusan Stanar

I'm the founder of VSS Monitoring. I have been both writing and working in technology in a number of roles for dozens of years and wanted to bring my experience online to make it publicly available. Visit https://www.vssmonitoring.com/about-us/ to read more about myself and the rest of the team.

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