Spyware: All You Need to Know and How to Protect Your DeviceVanessa Venugopal
Spyware is a form of malware that silently observes the activities of users on their devices. This unwanted software enters a device and steal data or send them to other server or marketing companies.
Spyware is different from a computer virus, as it doesn’t self-replicate. Instead, it remains silent, runs in the background like part of your operating system or a valuable file. Hence, it makes it hard to detect and dangerous for your device and data.
How Your Device Gets Infected?
There multiple ways you can get spyware into your device. First, it can be deliberately installed by someone. Hence, you will need a screen lock for your device. This form of spyware is often placed by a spouse or significant other to spy on their partner’s activities, which leads to abuse or invasion of privacy.
Another way spyware enters a device is by downloading a program or app with an accompanying spyware application. These spyware programs disguise themselves as useful programs.
Another way spyware enters your device’s system is by clicking on links that appear to be legitimate. Once you open the link, it redirects you to a site that looks like a reputable organization. Or, it would automatically download spyware into your device.
What Spyware can do to Your Device?
When you get infected by a malicious program, it can do many things to your device and your data.
How does it steal a person’s data once it gets into your device? Here’s how.
- Keeps track of your keystroke. Keyloggers extract data and information by tracking your keyboard activities. It can collect data such as credit card numbers, passwords, usernames, and messages you type.
- Controls your computer. Spyware can take control of your device by changing security settings and accessing it remotely. Trojan spyware is the main spyware behind this attack.
- Track activities online. Tracking cookies considered spyware as they keep track of your activities online and report these activities to advertisers. Information gathered is used to bring you targeted information or ads. There are also nefarious types of spyware that track your activities and use it to gain access to your personal information.
- Slows down your computer’s performance. Spyware runs in the background without you noticing it. It takes up your computer’s resources leading to the slowing down of your PC.
Type of Spyware
There are different types of spyware with various activities. Some steal data by tracking your online activities, while others by your keystroke. Whatever spyware infects your device, its goal is to spy on you.
- Keyloggers: It steals data or information by tracking your keyboard activity. Everything you input will be seen and recorded by hackers. It can steal information from your search history to your passwords.
- Banking Trojans: A spyware that modifies web pages to look like a reputable website. They create fake websites for users to log in and carry out their transactions. Hackers use this to steal money from users by sending money to their accounts.
- Information Gatherer: It steals all the information you have in your device and uses this for multiple purposes. It can also use your information to target your contacts for more victims.
- Tracking Cookies: It tracks your online activities and sends them to advertisers so they can send you targeted ads. It may seem harmless, but some Tracking Cookies can gather more than the information they need. Sometimes it goes beyond gathering your online activities to stealing valuable information you don’t know.
- Webcam and Sound Recording Spyware: It takes pictures of its victims without permission and uses them to upload online or to a third-party app. Sound recording spyware also does the same.
- Password Stealer: Steal all your login information to all of the accounts you use, whether it’s your email, online shop, or bank account.
- Mobile Spyware: It focuses on gathering your location, call activities, contact lists, and more.
Here are samples of the most famous spyware attacks:
- CoolWebSearch (CWS): CWS is the most notorious form of browser hijackers with aggressive activities and multiple versions. Its goal is to steal sensitive information and send them to its server.
- Gator (GAIN): It is a form of adware that displays multiple banners or advertisements depending on the user’s activity.
- BlazeFind: It is an adware plugin native to Internet Explorer. It redirects internet searches to their search engine and makes it the default home page.
- 180 Assistant: Delivers targeted pop-ups and advertisements. When you search online, 180 Assistant will open a separate browser and display ads related to the user’s searches.
There are hundreds of spyware that infect devices or businesses every day. If you don’t know how to protect your device or recognize the telltale signs of spyware, you could lose a lot of valuable information.
How to Recognize if Your Device is Infected by Spyware?
Recognizing the presence of spyware is not as easy as that of a computer virus. By nature, spyware programs are deceptive. Hence, they are hard to find. However, spyware, like other threats, shows clues that it is present in your device.
- Your device runs slow. If your PC suddenly runs slow or crashes, there could be spyware or malware installed into your computer
- Runs out of space or hard drive space unexpectedly
- Pop-ups appearing online and offline
- Unwanted toolbars or extensions installed in your browser.
- A different search engine and home page were installed
- Batteries are quickly depleted
- Difficulty logging in to a site
- Antivirus and other security software are not working
- Increase in data usage or bandwidth
How to Remove Spyware on Your Device?
Now that you know your device has spyware, it’s time to get rid of it, so it won’t continue stealing more information from you.
Here are simple steps you can take to get rid of spyware.
Removing spyware is tough. Aside from its difficulty to locate the malicious program, it can install itself even after you uninstall it due to its resurrection functionality.
But no matter how tough it is to deal with spyware, there are still ways to get rid of it.
- Disconnect from the internet. It prevents the spyware from sending more information to its server.
- Boot your PC to Safe Mode by holding down the Windows key on your keyboard and press R to open the Run program. Type “MSConfig” and click OK.
- In the System Configuration windows, go to Boot tab > click Safe Boot > Minimal mode is selected by default > OK > Restart.
- When in Safe Mode, check for temporary files you don’t need and remove them. Click Start > type %temp% in search box > press enter.
- Delete all temporary files.
- Once done, go to the recycle bin and permanently remove all your deleted files.
- Now, it’s time to get rid of the spyware. Go to Control Panel and select Programs and Files.
- Check on the list of programs installed on your PC. You can sort it out by date or check them if you are unsure of it. If you have confirmed the program, you can select it and click uninstall.
- After removing the spyware, open “MSConfig” like done previously > uncheck Safe Boot > click Restart.
- Disconnect from the internet.
- Go to Safe Mode by opening Windows Menu > Power icon > press and hold Shift key and click Restart.
- Once a menu appears, select Troubleshoot.
- Select Advanced Options > Startup Settings > Click Restart > press 4 on keyboard to go to Safe Mode.
- When in the Safe Mode, delete temporary files by typing Disk Cleanup in the search bar > click Disk Cleanup app.
- Check the Temporary Files box and select the files you want to delete > click OK > click Delete Files.
- After getting rid of your temporary files, open Settings by clicking on the Windows key and I > click Apps.
- Scroll through the list to check on programs you don’t recognize or sort them by date.
- Uninstall the program if you have checked it.
- After getting rid of the spyware, restart your PC to go back to its normal mode.
After returning to the normal mode, run your PC on a malware scanner or an antivirus to make sure that the spyware has been removed.
There are plenty of antivirus and anti-malware programs you can use to scan for your PC.
Samples of Spyware Removal Applications
- Iolo System Shield: It’s a protection program that gets rid of stubborn viruses and hidden spyware. You’ll get real-time protection from threats. Hence, protecting your computer from possible attacks. With the latest scanning technology, it can detect new and known threats. Get your Iolo Activation key today and start protecting your devices from threats. Iolo System Shield reviews will prove to you how effective this program can be.
- Malwarebytes: Another security software you can install on your device is Malwarebytes. It detects threats and gets rid of them from your device’s system. Stop threats from deploying their attacks. Malwarebytes also includes new features such as it stops ransomware from stealing information. Get 24/7 protection so your devices won’t be in danger all the time.
- Bitdefender Virus & Spyware Removal: It detects threats by performing manual scans and eliminate them from the system. Furthermore, it performs necessary actions to maintain the safety of your device. Get an ultra-secure PC with your Bitdefender subscription.
How to Prevent Future Attacks?
Now that you have cleaned your PC from spyware, the best way to avoid getting infected by threats is to prevent it from entering your system.
- Always update your PC’s system and all its applications once it’s available
- Never click on pop-ups
- Use a secure browser like Chrome or Firefox
- Avoid clicking on links sent to you via email or text
- Don’t trust free software
- Install an antivirus or malware scanner to get real-time protection
- Run programs you are not sure about on a Sandbox
- Install a VPN
- Never download unknown files on the internet
Spyware is a stubborn malicious program that can silently steal your information without knowing it. But there are telltale signs you’ll notice if malware is present. Getting to know what they are and removing them from your computer will bring you great relief. Furthermore, prevention is always the best option to keep your device and information safe from cybercriminals.