What Is Spyware And How Does It Work?


Written by: Jay H.

Spyware is an umbrella term for a form of malware (malicious software) that bad actors install on a victim’s computer without their consent. It then spies on the user, steals personal information – including browsing history, login information, and sensitive information – and relays the data to third parties.

Spyware is one of the most common threats online consumers face today. Standard spyware tools include adware, keyloggers, screen captures, and more. Once installed, it can track anything the victim does on the device and collect a myriad of information, including their location, emails, texts, calls, photos, and videos. Usually, however, the primary goal is to steal credit card, banking, and login information.

How Does Spyware Work?

Spyware often makes its way onto a victim’s device because the user installed a malicious file, attachment, or app. Its presence consumes random access memory (RAM) and processing power, so spyware often slows down the device. Much spyware also generates an abundance of pop-up windows, effectively rendering web browsers unable.

In worst cases, attackers use spyware to collect your sensitive information like credit card numbers, passwords, banking information and use it for identity theft or sell to third parties. Bad actors may use keyloggers or screen captures to accomplish this.

How To Prevent Spyware

Like most malware, the best way to prevent spyware is by practicing proper cyber hygiene. Some best practices include the following:

  • Do not open or download files and attachments from unknown senders.
  • Avoid interactions with pop-up ads, especially those that ask you to call a company like Microsoft to fix your computer.
  • Only download software from trusted sources and official websites.
  • Check the URL address of the website you visit.
  • Install reputable antivirus software like Malwarebytes.
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Keep your applications and operating system up-to-date with the latest updates.
  • Install a pop-up and ad blocker.

How To Remove Spyware

The first step in removing spyware is recognizing that your device is infected. Spyware indicators include the following:

  • Your device is running slower than usual.
  • Your device crashes often.
  • You are bombarded with pop-up ads or redirected to ads in your browser.
  • You are running out of hard drive space.

If you suspect that spyware may be on your device, take the following steps:

  • Disconnect your Internet connection.
  • Check your device’s programs to see if any unfamiliar software is listed. If so, click it and uninstall the program, then reboot your system.
  • Run a scan using a reputable antivirus to check your systems for malware.
  • If the above steps fail, you should bring your device to a reputable IT company such as Design2Web IT to assist you with malware removal.

Concerned about spyware or other malware on your device? Please contact us today for assistance.

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