What is Spyware | Best Method To Avoid Getting Spyware
Digital media is a major source of socializing. Whether it is sending emails, sharing photos, watching videos , or downloading apps, it all reflects our digital identity. Indeed, none of it is possible without sharing our personal data online. However, less do we know of the prying eyes following our activities.
What first came into existence in the 90s for espionage purposes has now taken a whole new turn in the 21st century. Over the years, spyware has become one of the most sophisticated malware. The most recent spyware, Pegasus, has surfaced as a major controversy. Allegedly government and law enforcement agencies are now taking advantage of such powerful spyware. When implanted in a device, it is tough to detect or get rid of.
Spyware is intended to infect your devices by initiating illegal activities or data breaches. It’s easier to fall prey to, especially when you are unaware of it. Here, we have talked about everything you need to know about spyware, including what it is, how it gets in, what it does and how can you detect and remove it. It will make you aware of the adverse effects of spyware and help you against spyware attacks in the future.
What is Spyware?
Spyware is a type of malware that is installed on your device without your knowledge or consent. It covertly gathers sensitive personal information such as login IDs and passwords, credit/debit card or banking details , or web surfing habits. As a result, you might face pesky advertisements, pop-ups , or track down of your keystrokes. The spyware author or third parties can easily access this collected data for personal benefits. Generally, spyware is attached alongside a free software application or an email attachment. While the application/email might seem legitimate, the embedded spyware works in the background as an information gathering system. The personal data is then reported to the third party. The most benign form of spyware is when it gathers data from your web surfing habits and shows you a specific product or service. Your device might also be used to store illegal information. However, advanced spyware monitors every mouse click and reveals your real-time activities to the hacker.
How to recognize spyware?
Spyware could majorly target Windows operating system a while back, but not anymore. Spyware is now refined enough to penetrate the tight security of Macs, iOS, PCs , and Android devices. Basically, any device connected to the internet can be implanted with spyware. Spyware can be quite difficult to detect as they are meant to be deceptive. Although, here are some of the hints which help you identify if your device is infected. Your system might show one or many of these symptoms:
● Frequent and recurring pop-ups
● The device is running out of space’ alert
● Constantly getting redirected by the browser to malicious pages
● Icons of unknown programs you didn’t install on the device
● Display new plugins or toolbar that you didn’t add.
How to avoid spyware?
Once spyware gets access to your device, it will try to gather as much information as possible. Taking precautions against spyware will prevent you from becoming a victim. Here are some precautions you can take:
● If a window pops up showing folders and files as soon as you plug in a USB device, then your auto-run feature is turned on. Disable this feature to avoid malware getting installed in your system.
● Avoid downloading free software from fishy sites. As tempting as it may look, downloading free software from such sites is a threat. Such software may be packed with spyware which will get embedded in your system as soon as the software will be installed. It is advised to do thorough research and trust a reliable source before making any changes to your computer.
● Read the end-user license agreement before downloading any software. If you find anything suspicious, refrain from downloading it.
● Ads or pop-ups showing rewards are generally fake or malicious. Do not respond to such ads, and don’t even click on the ‘cancel’ or ‘close’ button. It might direct you to a compromised website. You simply need to right-click on the window’s border at the top and tap on ‘close’.
● Never trust an email from an unknown sender. Make sure you check the sender’s details before clicking on any link or downloading attachments, as they might contain spyware. Even if the sender is a trusted online store or a bank, verify their email from the browser first. Or hover over the link to check if it’s the right webpage.
● The most common way of getting spyware is by visiting a malicious website. The best way to avoid it is by getting browser sandbox protection. It creates a virtual environment where all the downloaded files are isolated. It blocks the files from causing any damage to the device.
● Do not click on ads for free anti-spyware. They are generally fake despite having a genuine logo. In fact, it is a common way of injecting spyware by hiding it under the name of anti-spyware software. It is advised to go directly to the anti-virus software’s website when you are looking for such software.
● Using an Adblocker will help you get rid of unnecessary ads, including fake ones. Although, some websites would require you to turn off the ad blocker for their functioning. You may choose to turn it off for reliable websites.
● Keep your operating system up-to-date. The system updates are meant to keep you safe from the existing spyware in the market, so make sure to keep updating your system.
● Install a firewall. Use a separate router if you have a home network instead of sharing the internet connection via one of the computers.
● If a virus alert appears on the screen while visiting a website, don’t respond to it. Instead, launch the taskbar and use the ” End Task” command to close the window.
● You need an advanced antivirus solution to combat advanced spyware. Make sure that your antivirus is well-equipped against all kinds of malware. It should have sandbox protection and web protection feature to block malicious websites. The most popular antivirus brands are Microsoft Defender, Spybot, Norton, McAfee, Pest Control, Grisoft , and Search & Destroy.