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Why You Need to Be Concerned About Spyware in 2020

Person alarmed with virus and malware attacks

The internet is a landscape rife with threats, and few have been more keenly on the mind of the average user than the idea that someone might be watching everything you do. Every web page, keystroke, and any bit of data running through your computer can be up for grabs if you’re not protecting it. That’s all thanks to spyware.

Here, we’re going to look at what it is, why you should be concerned, and the anti spyware tools you can use to stop it.

What is Spyware?

Spyware works like just about any other kind of malicious software. It’s often uninvited, installing itself on your computer but there have been famous cases of spyware that infiltrates your computer by being bundled with more benign looking software that users install themselves. Sometimes, simply clicking on an untrustworthy ad can result in spyware being downloaded to your system.

Malware is the blanket term for malicious software that almost always operates against the best interests of the user. In this case, spyware is a particular category of malware that is designed to start monitoring your activities. This can range from your online activity to data on keystrokes, often used to steal passwords, and much, much more.

Unlike viruses which tend to make themselves known by deleting data or shutting down certain processes and functions of the computer, spyware is much more covert, hence the name. Many users may be entirely oblivious to the fact they have spyware as it tends to work very quietly in the background. What’s more, spyware may be designed to have a legitimate looking or even attractive user interface so as to escape the suspicion of the user.

One common spyware tactic is to actually make the software looking like an antivirus or anti-spyware tool, hiding their true functions. These kinds of spyware are known as Trojan horse spyware. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to do your research and read plenty of reviews before using any protection software. There are plenty of legitimate, high-quality packages like McAfee, Bull Guard, and AVG out there, so don’t feel like you should avoid security programmes simply because it’s a guise that spyware will sometimes take.

What does Spyware do?

The lines between spyware and virus can seem blurred but, in general, the former tends to follow a few conventions. Most spyware, unlike other kinds of malware, does not attempt to take over your computer or damage your data. Instead, it’s all about the surveillance of user activity and data. Some kinds of Trojan spyware will allow for remote access to the computer, however, so you’re never entirely free from that risk.

In most cases, however, spyware will use a variety of methods to steal information about you. Keylogging software, for instance, will record your keystrokes. Most often this is for the purpose of stealing passwords or recording communications that you communicate through your keyboard.

Another common feature of spyware is to track what you do online. There is a difference (though the line is very thin) between cookies and spyware. Cookies tend to track data related to individual websites and nowadays most sites that use cookies inform and gain consent from the user. Spyware tracking, on the other hand, tracks every single thing you do online and asks for no consent or access to your activity. Like cookies, the data taken by spyware devices can be sold to advertisers and data-collection companies.

However, this data theft can also play a big role in the realm of identity theft. It’s not just which websites you visit that are logged, after all. Spyware can steal browsing history, email accounts, private messages, social media use, passwords for shopping and banking, and much, much more. This can lead to unauthorized access to your finances online or the creation of fake profiles under your name using all your personal information.

Spyware is also a tremendous drain on your computer. These kinds of software can be very resource intensive, making it run much more slowly and cause noticeable issues with lag and freezing. System crashes may become a lot more frequent and your computer may even be prone to overheating which can result in permanent damage.

How to remove Spyware

Prevention is the best cure, as they say, and there are plenty of ways to stop spyware from finding a home on your computer, to begin with. The first step is to exercise a little common sense and caution. Before you download any software, it’s worth looking up its reputation and reviews online. Similarly, don’t download any unexpected email attachments from unknown sources. If a friend sends you a file, confirm with them directly that it’s from them before downloading it.

That’s not to say you will be entirely safe. Legitimate software and websites can become compromised, giving spyware a backdoor to your computer. Internet security software such as TotalAv and Kaspersky have anti-spyware functions as well as antivirus functions. One should always approach spyware for the first time with the assumption that they have been infected but they just haven’t noticed it. Avast is one of the best spyware removal tools when taking that approach, and it entirely free.

Once you have removed spyware that’s already on the system, it’s all about spyware surveillance and proactive protection. For instance, Bull Guard and Kaspersky are both recommended because they feature keyboard encryption tools that stop spyware from keylogging when you’re entering financial information. Anti-spam filters from tools like AVG make it much less likely that you’re going to encounter or see the links that lead to spyware in the first place.

This site and similar web pages can help you learn a little more about how widely used and how well-reputed your digital security tools are. Make sure you use this information to verify the validity of any spyware protection programs you want to try out. Remember that spyware can mask itself as anti-spyware so you have to know you can trust a piece of software before giving it a home on your computer.

Spyware isn’t something from a Tom Clancy novel, it’s an all-too-real threat that can allow your data to fall into the wrong hands. Without the right protection, there is no data that the producers of this malicious software can’t find a way to access.

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