Is spyware spying on you? What can you do about it?

Any type of software that monitors and records your behaviour online can be considered spyware.

Spyware is malware that is installed on a computer more than often without a user’s knowledge. Once a machine is infiltrated, the syware can collect data about that user or any one else with access to that system.

Among the information collected by spyware are keystrokes, websites visited, passwords, and other important data that can be used to hack into accounts and fuel fraudulent activity.

Performance issues

Aside from the big issue in the invasion of privacy, spyware can also have a detrimental effect on the performance of your computer.

It can do this by installing more software, redirecting web searchers, and changing the settings on your computer, resulting in the throttling of bandwidth and computer procesosr and memory resources being used without the user knowing.

“Legitimate” spyware 

There are times when software that acts like spyware is installed for reasons that are not just criminal. Organisations may install tracking software on corporate-owned hardware to track an employee’s browsing habits. Parents may also use similar software to spy on their kids’ online activity.

Advertisers use cookies to track users in order to target advertising at them. However, if a user is notified that data is being collected on them, such actions may not be considered spyware (even if the data collected is the same).

Different types of spyware

Spyware can take many different forms, each having their own functions and purpose. The four main types are:

Adware – this spyware tracks information about a user, sucking up data such as web searches, frequently visited websites and downloads. This information is then used to display window ads or pop-up ads.

Trojans – this is malware that appears to be legitimate but can fool users into installing it onto their computers and mobile devices. These Trojans are used to access sensitive data and files and can affect system performance.

Cookie trackers – third-party tracking cookies monitor a user’s internet activities such as web searches, history, downloads, etc for business, marketing or other reasons, depending on the motives of the hacker.

System monitors and keyloggers – this type of spyware is designed to monitor activity on a computer and record data such as keystrokes, sites visited, emails and more, often for nefarious purposes.

Dealing with spyware

If you suspect your computer has spyware on it, you can do the following.

Disconnect the computer from the internet. This may seem like an extreame move but can help prevent the spread of malware and leaking of sensitive data.

If you boot into Safe Mode on a Windows PC, this will only load the minimum number of programs and processes. It may also prevent spyware from loading. When in Safe Mode, delete temporary files. This will speed up spyware scanning. Use can also use the Disk Cleanup utility in Windows; just type Disk Cleanup into the search bar and click on this to start the process.

You can then run an anti-spyware application to remove any spyware or malware from the computer (if you have disconnected the PC from the internet, you may have to either reconnect it to download the anti-spyware app or download this app to a USB drive on another computer).

After this you can then scan the computer to find and remove any spyware or malware you suspect is on your computer, hopefully purging it and the opportunited for cyber criminals to seal your data from your computer.

Source : itpro

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