By Jennifer Adams
Your computer is used to manage multiple aspects of your life including work emails, personal emails, social media, business applications, and for banking purposes. What if someone was watching everything you do without you knowing? This type of threat is not only real, but one of the most common for internet users. The malicious software that makes this possible is known as spyware.
Spyware is a type of malware designed to remain undetectable while it monitors activity and intercepts data such as your browsing history, banking information, login credentials, emails, and credit card numbers. This can be even more catastrophic if client information is intercepted from a business device. Hence its name, spyware is sneaky. It finds a way to attach itself to your device and operating system without you knowing. It can work its way into your system by tricking you; like when you agree to the terms of a program that seems legitimate, without first reading the fine print.
Spyware also can be a non-malicious software that monitors your data for commercial purposes such as advertising. However, regardless of its legitimacy, spyware leaves the user open to data breaches and potential exploitation of their information.
Spyware comes in several forms, not just one type of software. It encompasses an entire class which includes adware, keyboard loggers, trojans and info stealers.
- Adware is an advertising supported software that often comes included with free software, shareware programs and utilities downloaded online or stealthily installed onto the device when the user visits an infected website. The software monitors the user’s activity with the intention of selling the data for advertising purposes or to serve them with fraudulent ads.
- Keyloggers, also known as system monitors, capture various forms of computer activity including keystrokes, search history, login credentials and search history. They also can keep screenshots of what’s on the device at a scheduled interval. It’s also possible for them to capture audio and documents that are captured on connected printers.
- Trojans are a form of malware the user is tricked into installing the spyware believing it is a legitimate software. After installation, trojans can encrypt files for a ransom, delete data, or allow other malicious actors access to the information on the device.
- Info stealers are designed to exploit data from infected computers, including usernames, passwords, email addresses and files. Like trojans, infostealers exploit browser security vulnerabilities to collect data and then transmit it to a remote server.
Spyware opens the door for a variety of problems and has the potential to be incredibly dangerous once your device is infected. These threats can range from minor annoying inconveniences to long-term reputational and financial damage.
- Data theft and exploitation are perhaps the most concerning threats, especially for businesses because this can cause permanent harm to its reputation and finances.
- Computer damages are another side effect of spyware because the device must work harder to keep up with its regular workload, plus the demands of the spyware. It encompasses an enormous amount of the computers memory, internet bandwidth, and processing power resulting in infected devices taking much longer to load, overheating, and in some cases, crashing.
- Frustrating disruptions including annoying pop-ups, unwanted changes to your settings and search results that deceptively lead you to fraudulent websites can also be caused by spyware.
Your first line of defense against spyware is prevention. Consult with an IT expert about getting an antivirus software installed on your devices, as well as having the network monitored for anything suspicious. Don’t open emails from unknown senders or attachments in an unexpected email, even if it appears to be from someone you know. Put your mouse over links before clicking to make sure you are being directed to the correct webpage. When in doubt if something is a scam or not, ask one of the IT experts at XETX to check it out. That’s what were here for!