Common Spyware types and how to detect them

Common Spyware types and how to detect them

Common Spyware types and how to detect them

Spyware is a type of malicious software or malware that sneaks into the user’s system and gains complete unauthorised access to the system or devices without the users knowing anything. As the name suggests a spyware spies on your activities and performs operations like tracking your online activities, reading your personal mails and messages, gaining access to sensitive and critical information like passwords, bank details and credit card details. It collects data about your online activities and then forwards the data to an external server without your knowledge or consent.

Types of spyware

Adware: Is a type of spyware which gains entry into your systems through your web browser. It tracks your online activities such as browsing history, cookies and site activities with an intent of collecting your data. The data collected is forwarded to the marketeers and advertisers and then through the adware the users are bombarded with ads based on your browsing history coaxing you into buying a product or a service.

Trojans: Trojans are spyware which masquerade themselves as legitimate software’s, programs or applications and attaches itself to your operating system. Trojans can gain access to critical systems and perform activities like deleting or adding a file to your system, encrypting system files for a ransom and collecting critical data and sending it across to a third-party taker without your consent or knowledge. Trojans can also perform identity theft by stealing your personal credentials.

Keyloggers: Keyloggers are a type of spyware which installs itself into the user’s system and are designed to trace the keystrokes on keyboards of the users. They also track and monitor your browser data and search history. Keyloggers stealthily capture screenshots of critical and sensitive information at regular intervals which makes it easier for the attackers to gain personal credentials of the users.

Password stealers: Password stealers are a malicious code which attach itself with the operating system and runs silently in the background. As the name suggests It can retrieve passwords and login credentials from the system and perform identity theft and fraudulent financial transactions.

Cookie or browser trackers: Is a type of spyware which hijacks your cookie sessions and tracks your browsing history and online activities and forwards the data to a third-party taker.

How does a spyware work?

A spyware disguises itself as a legitimate program, installs itself in the system and discreetly runs in the background. It chaperones itself with seemingly normal and safe downloads and gains entry into the system. Sometimes it even accompanies itself with legitimate software’s and programs that you unknowingly install into your system. Attaching itself with a bundle of software’s is very common for a spyware as it is difficult to detect them though a bundle. It can also stay hidden in cookies of the browser and gains unauthorised entry into your system when you accept cookies to be downloaded into your system. It can come through links shared via mails, instant messages, social media messengers or when you accidently or inadvertently open an attachment or click a malicious link. The spyware infiltrates your system through software packages, bundle programs and through suspicious attachments and links. It silently runs in the background as a part of operating system capturing and extracting users’ activities and data on the system. The data captured is either stored on the user’s system itself or sent to an external server controlled by the attacker. The attacker can use the data himself or sell it to a third party for a sum or ransom.

How to detect a spyware in your system?

Detecting a spyware is a difficult task since it attaches itself with the operating system and runs discreetly in the background. Instead of trying to locate or find the spyware, look for suspicious signs that confirms that your system is behaving strangely and might be infected with a spyware. Check for signs such as

  • The responsiveness of the system becomes slack and sluggish.
  • Being inundated with unexpected pop ups and display ads while browsing.
  • The battery runs out quickly as the spyware is constantly running on the background tracking your activities.
  • Unaccountable and unexplainable increase in data usage which results from spyware uploading your data on an external server or constantly monitoring your online activities.
  • Anti-virus and firewall suddenly malfunctioning and causing system crashes.
  • Reconfiguring security settings to gain administrator access of the system.
  • System files starts getting deleted or appearing out in nowhere in the system.
  • Manipulative browsing experience which causes page disruptions and distortions.

How to protect yourself from spyware

The following steps protects the user from spyware:

  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links on emails and messages which are often embedded with malicious codes and spyware that infect and infiltrate your system.
  • Avoid using Wi-Fi from public networks as it is easier for an attacker to initiate attacks from a public network which is open and not secure.
  • Use a VPN while browsing websites which disguises your identity and provides you with a new IP address that makes it difficult for the attacker to track or trace your activities.
  • Avoid clicking on website pop ups or install an adblocker that blocks unwanted pop ups.
  • Reconfigure the browser settings to safe mode on your system and avoid giving permission to cookies to collect your data.
  • Install anti-spyware programs that have real time monitoring and protection of data. Install latest versions or download regular patches of the programs to keep it up to date.
  • Install or download an anti-tracking browser extension that prevents constant online tracking and helps you maintain privacy.
  • Don’t download unlicensed software’s and stay away from unofficial or untrusted download sources.
  • Restrict administrator privileges on your system which basically doesn’t allow the attacker root access of the system thus making it difficult for them to install the spyware.
  • Enabling multi factor authentication wherever possible.

The digital or the online world has made it easier to connect and run a business but comes with its inherent risks and vulnerabilities which when not addressed properly can cause reputation, operational and financial damage. Staying alert and following basic hygiene principles will prevent a spyware attack and keep your systems safe.

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