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What is a Spyware and ways to counter it

As the name suggests, Spyware is a malicious malware program that snoops in on the user information available on an infected device unnoticed. They are challenging to detect and function in the background. Moreover, they can mine data from social media and cloud services. The information is valuable to many third-party services that use it to target the user by sending ads, but more nefarious ones gather sensitive information like emails, credit card numbers, passwords, among others.

The examples of spyware include CoolWebSearch, Gator, Zlob, TIBS Dialer, Internet Optimizer, among others.

Types of spyware

Photo by portal gda | Flickr

Spyware can be of different types, which are as follows.

Adware

Adware targets the user’s browsing history and then predicts the buying habits or interests of the user. The adware then bombards the user with advertisements related to the previous searches. We can safely say that adware plays with the user’s psychology.

Keyboard loggers

Keyboard loggers are programs that steal highly personal information like passwords, login credentials, emails along with capturing screenshots and printer details.

Tracking cookies

Cookies help a website to identify a person based on the acquired metadata such as IP address and device information. The cookies are used for marketing purposes by the websites.

Trojans

Trojans disguise themselves as a legitimate program. Often they look harmless, but on the contrary, they access sensitive information. Alongwith that, trojans can delete files or can act like ransomware and perform other malicious functions.

Also read: Ransomware vs Malware vs Spyware

How can spyware enter your device?

Spyware can enter your device by following ways.

Drive-by download

When the website automatically tries to download some program on the device. Usually, these programs are spyware.

Browser add-ons

Browser add-ons improve browser services. Mostly, they are safe. However, they can contain some spyware or are spyware themselves.

Disguising as anti-malware software

Users will have no idea that the anti-malware software itself contains malware. The user will willingly install the software and in turn, jeopardise their privacy and security.

Unsecured WiFi

Logging on to an unsecured network increases the possibility of third party users spying on your device.

Flaws in the operating system

Sometimes the OS itself has some security gaps that allow the malware to gain entry on your device. Updating regularly mitigates the risk to a great deal.

Malicious apps and files

Downloading files from unauthorised websites can result in a higher risk of spyware attack. Furthermore, other malware can also enter the device.

Also read: Why is Cyber Security important? 5 tips to protect yourself

How does the spyware affect the device?

Spywares are dangerous, mainly because the user has no idea that the software is installed and working. Furthermore, the users themselves install the apps that contain spyware. Spyware affects the device by:

  • Slowing the processor of the device and causing the system to lag.
  • Overheating the system.
  • Manipulating the search engine results by delivering unwanted websites to the user.
  • Altering the computer settings and changing the home page.
  • Stealing the user’s information, including but not limited to passwords, email information, browser history.
  • Delivering unexpected pop-ups while surfing the web.

In truth, spyware can create a complete profile of the user without the user noticing them.

Also read: 7 types of data your browser collects about you

How to protect the device from spyware?

Top 4 countries targeted for phishing attacks includes IndiaData privacy is paramount in these times. Spyware threat can be prevented using the following methods.

  • Not opening spam emails.
  • Not opening pop-ups. Users can use pop-up blocker or a browser that blocks pop-ups by default.
  • Not downloading from unauthorised websites.
  • Installing and keeping the anti-malware software along with the system updated.
  • Disabling Active-X. Active-X is a unique code on the browser that can be of help to the spyware. However, disabling them will affect the working of certain websites.
  • Finally, educating oneself and others about the spyware.

Data is the most valuable asset in the present day. Therefore, we must strive to protect it at all costs. By following the methods mentioned above, A user can secure their device and thereby safeguard privacy.

Also read: What is ProtonMail and 6 reasons why you should use it

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