Security Technology

What Is Spyware, And How Can You Protect Yourself From It?

The modern digital age has seen the value of data, be it personal or business, skyrocket. With this rising cost, it has made nefarious hacking to steal said data more prominent than ever.

In fact, over 86% of all data breaches within the world of business were financially motivated, demonstrating the extent to which attackers are now targeting this valuable opportunity.

One of the primary methods that a hacker will use to gain entry into a company’s systems and harvest its data is through spyware. Spyware, along with its counterparts of malware and ransomware, is incredibly effective at taking control of systems and stealing the data contained within them.

What Is Spyware

Especially considering that a breach could be the result of one small mistake by an employee, more and more hackers are turning towards using spyware and getting it onto local business systems.

What Is Spyware?

You may be asking yourself, “What is spyware, and why is it so dangerous?” Spyware is a further specification of malware, acting as a hidden file that will download onto a user’s computer and then infect it.

Often, they are hidden within a range of different files, being bundled up with some legitimate applications or platforms in order to fly under the radar. Most commonly, it will be within an email attachment, a download link on a website, or within the files of a seemingly healthy application.

Spyware has more than just one single function, typically acting in different ways and targeting distinct information. Typically, you can split spyware into three main types.

  • Keyboard Loggers – A keylogger is a program that copies every key tapped and action taken on the infected device and transcribes it on the attacker’s computer. With this, any time that a user types in their password, a username, or even an email, the hacker will know about it. This is a common way that hackers farm company information and use it to break into user accounts with lots of permissions.
  • Internet Cookies – Once installed on a device, internet cookie spyware can track personal information across all the internet tabs and browsers that are available on a device. From there, they can farm huge amounts of personal information, search histories, and more in order to then hold against individuals or businesses. This is also a way that attackers can farm passwords and usernames from a range of sites.
  • Adware – Adware is probably the least threatening type of spyware, and one that will rarely be used if an attacker is targeting a business. These infect a device and begin to display unauthorized advertising on the device, slowing down its speed to a point where the device becomes incredibly difficult to use. What’s more, the advertisements displayed on the device could be links to further forms of spyware, creating a circle of downloading dangerous files.

While these are the most common types of spyware, it isn’t an exhaustive list. Beyond this, there are specific forms of spyware designed for lifting banking and financial data, as well as ones that are made for mobile tracking.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Spyware?

When attempting to keep yourself safe from spyware, there are a range of internet safety tactics that you can employ.

To give you a rapid masterclass, we’ll comb through some main ones.

  • Be Conscious of Emails.
  • Use Email Firewalls.
  • View Links.

Let’s break these down further.

Be Conscious of Emails

When reading through your emails, be careful to never believe absolutely everything you read. If anything seems radically urgent, telling you that your accounts are totally breached, your bank is experiencing fraud, or you need to reset your password right now, take a second to check out the validity of the email.

Be sure to closely inspect the email address that the email address has come from. Equally, if the email is asking you to navigate to a particular site, you should navigate from your own search engine, not through any links. Be very careful when clicking on links within an email, as you could easily launch a download onto your computer.

Knowing what types of files to look for will also help you stay safe, with .doc and .dot having 37% of all spyware in them.

Use Email Firewalls

Many email services already have a range of firewalls in place that can detect and move any potentially dangerous emails to spam. Be sure that you check what firewalls your email provider has in place, or turn to an email protection service online to fulfill this requirement.

With the expanse of online digital security reaching a total of $170 billion, you’ll easily be able to find a service that works for you.

View Links

A very small but useful tip for navigating the internet safely is hovering over any links before you open them. All browsers will expand the link and display exactly where a link is going to reroute your browser to.

Going further, many browsers will now have a small display window of the intended landing page where you’ll be headed. Taking a few seconds to check out your links before clicking on them will help you steer clear of any websites that have dodgy domains or infected pages.

Final Thoughts

Spyware is one of the many formats that hackers will use to gain entry into personal devices and those that belong to businesses.

Once spyware is on a system, it can be difficult to get rid of it, meaning that preventative measures are always the most effective strategy for keeping your systems safe.

No matter if you’re just looking to make sure your personal devices remain spyware-free or are protecting your business and all of its employees, taking the tips we’ve outlined in this article will go a long way.

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About the author

Vidya Menon

Vidya is an online content developer for Justwebworld. She has a BA in English Language and Literature and an MA in Current Linguistics. She is a passionate reader, writer and researcher with a background in academic writing.