What is Spyware?

Spyware is a malicious software that infiltrates the computing device without the end user’s knowledge. It invades the device, stealing internet usage data and sensitive information. Spyware is classified as a type of malware — malicious software designed to gain access to or damage the computer, often without the consumer’s knowledge, sending confidential information to another entity without the consumer’s consent, through cookies. Spyware gathers personal information and relays it to advertisers, data firms, or external users.


How Spyware works?

Though the term spyware suggests software that monitors a user’s computing, the functions of spyware can extend beyond simple monitoring. Malware can collect almost any type of data, including personal information like internet surfing habits, user logins, and bank or credit account information. It is mostly used for stealing information and storing Internet users’ movements on the Web and serving up pop-up ads to Internet users.

Most malware is installed without consumer knowledge, or by using deceptive methods. Spyware tries to deceive users by bundling itself with desirable software. Other common tricks are using a Trojan horse, spy gadgets that look like normal devices but turn out to be something else, such as a USB Keylogger. These devices actually are connected to the device as memory units but are capable of recording each stroke made on the keyboard.


What are the types of Spyware?

Spyware is mostly classified into five types and each uses unique tactics to track the data.

Adware – It tracks the browser history and downloads, with the intent of predicting what products or services you’re interested in. The adware will display advertisements for the same or related products or services to tempt users to click or make a purchase. Adware is used for marketing purposes and can also slow down the computer.


Trojan Horse – This kind of malicious software disguises itself as harmless software. For example, Trojans may appear to be a Java or Flash Player update upon download. Trojan malware is controlled by third parties. Trojan can delete files, encrypt files for ransom or allow others to have access to the user’s information. It can be used to access sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and credit card information or any personal information.


Tracking cookies – These track the user’s web activities, such as searches, history, and downloads, for marketing purposes.


System monitors – This type of spyware can capture just about everything you do on your computer. System monitors can record all keystrokes, emails, chat-room dialogs, websites visited, and programs run. System monitors are often disguised as freeware.

Keyloggers are a type of system monitor that are often used by cybercriminals to steal PII, login credentials and sensitive enterprise data.


Mobile spyware – When a smartphone or tablet gets infected with mobile spyware that is sideloaded with a third-party app, the phone’s camera and microphone can be used to spy on nearby activity, record phone calls, and log browsing activity and keystrokes. The device owner’s location can also be monitored through the Global Positioning System or the mobile computing device’s accelerometer. Mobile spyware is dangerous because it can be transferred through Short Message Service or Multimedia Messaging Service text messages and typically does not require user interaction to execute commands.


What are the examples of Spyware?

These are some spyware programs that show diverse behaviours found in the attacks. Note that, as with computer viruses, researchers give names to spyware programs which may not be used by their creators. Programs may be grouped into “families” based not on shared program code.

Ransomware It is a type of malware from crypto-virology that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. While some simple ransomware may lock the system in a way which is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, more advanced malware uses a technique called crypto-viral.

Pegasus – It is the name of a spyware that can be installed on devices running certain versions of iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system. Upon clicking on a malicious link, Pegasus secretly enables a jailbreak on the device and can read text messages, track calls, collect passwords, trace the phone location, as well as gather information from other apps.

CoolWebSearch – It is a group of programs, takes advantage of Internet Explorer vulnerabilities. The package directs traffic to advertisements on Web sites including coolwebsearch.com. It displays pop-up ads, rewrites search engine results, and alters the infected computer’s hosts file to direct DNS lookups to these sites.


How to recognize if spyware is on the device?

Spyware can be difficult to recognize on the device. By its nature, it’s meant to be deceptive and tough to find. But there are clues that can help to identify whether the device have been infected by spyware. If the device shows these symptoms, be alert!

  • The device is slow or crashes unexpectedly and frequently.
  • The device is running out of hard drive space.
  • The device gets pop-ups online or offline.


How to prevent Spyware?

Here are some important steps to help prevent spyware:

  • Download software from trusted sources.
  • Don’t open emails from unknown senders.
  • Regularly check current updates and patches for browser, OS and application software.
  • Don’t click on pop-up advertisements.
  • Use reputable antivirus software.

Spyware can be harmful, but it can be removed and prevented by being cautious and using an antivirus tool. Maintaining strict cybersecurity practices is the best way to prevent spyware. If you’ve been infected with spyware, take measures to remove it. Be proactive by changing the passwords.