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Spyware: What You Need to Know

Spyware: What You Need to Know

There are many different kinds of spyware out there. We run through the various types in order to keep your computer and business safe.

Spyware is one of the most common forms of malware you will find crawling on the net and it helps facilitate other forms of cyber crime. As the name suggests, spyware is a kind of malware or virus that spies on users and companies. It can be downloaded to peoples’ computers, servers, or even phones where it can be a huge nuisance and a pain to remove.

There are a number of different ways that spyware can take information. Keyloggers, for example, are spyware kits that specifically record keystrokes and send it to the party that’s spying on you. Anything you type, including credit card or social security numbers, can be seen by prying eyes. URL loggers, on the other hand, will actively log what sites you visit, and how long you spend looking at each page. Furthermore, screen recorders are exactly what they say: they capture a recording of everything that’s happening on your screen without you knowing. Many forms of traffic hijacking also use spyware to make things happen.

There are several different reasons why people would use spyware. Firstly, it’s an easy way to steal credit card information to make illegal purchases on your dime. Some companies may even use spyware to runs ads as a way to gain traffic to new blogs or their website. Hackers might also use spyware to get material which can be used as blackmail against the people who they attack. Even more may use it as a way to piggyback off of a company’s success, or to destroy or disseminate important, private company information.

This isn’t to say that spyware doesn’t have some uses in and out of the workplace. On the domestic side, many spouses catch cheaters by installing keyloggers on computers to gain access to their Facebook or email. In many companies, CEOs will install spyware as a web monitoring service on computers in the office to make sure that employees aren’t slacking off while on company time. However, this is generally the minority of spyware users.

While it is scary to think of how much information can be leaked through spyware, protecting yourself against this form of attack is relatively simple. Here are some quick tips for company owners and computer users who want to make sure they don’t fall victim to a spyware program.

  • Most antivirus and antimalware software programs do a great job of keeping spyware at bay. That being said, you do have to update it regularly in order to consider yourself protected against sneaky downloaded spyware.
  • Using your common sense when it comes to opening up suspicious emails and clicking on strange links. It is possible to download, install, and run spyware on your phone, tablet or computer by simply clicking a link or opening an attachment. If a link looks fishy, you may want to reconsider clicking on it. Similarly, use some common sense and don’t open emails that don’t seem like they were written by people that you know.
  • Scan your computer and network regularly for spyware. The only way to catch and defeat spyware is to find it in the first place. If you aren’t scanning often, spyware may take root on your PC. A good IT professional will be able to help you with this if needed.
  • Regularly update and patch server weaknesses as they are discovered. Servers, even the best ones, can be vulnerable to attacks if you aren’t patching them and updating them regularly. Patches allow for potential holes to be covered before hackers can sneak through and do something malicious with your data.