Beware of Spyware: What Is It and How Can You Stay Safe?

August 11, 2023

Introduction

If you’ve ever seen a spy movie, you probably picture “spying” as a complex mission, usually involving bungee cords and trip wires. When it comes to technology, though, cybercriminals don’t have to break into your physical workplace or home to get into your network and systems. They can steal the valuable data they want, from the safety of their evil lair…

In fact, YOU could directly hand them your passwords and other private details…and not even know it!

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Spyware allows threat actors to peek through your computer and see what you’re looking at, everything you type, and everything else you do that system!

Did you know? Most computers already contain 93% of what they need to run spyware!

What is Spyware?

Spyware is like a sneaky digital spy that secretly gets into your computer, phone or another WiFi-connected device. It watches what you do, like the websites you visit, the things you type, and even the passwords you enter. Then, it sends all this private information to someone else, remotely, where they can browse all of that information from the comfort of their own computers.

This is not always malicious.

In fact, sometimes you may even KNOW that someone has installed spyware on your devices. For example, parents may download this on their children’s phones or your boss could have some kind of tracking software on your work computers. This software could be used to make sure you aren’t using inappropriate websites or checking content that you shouldn’t be accessing.

If you are the victim of malicious spyware, though, then it’s someone much more sinister looking to steal crucial information from you. With the information gained from their spyware, threat actors can steal your personally identifiable information (PII), gather enough personal intel to spear-phish you, and even use that information to damage your device! Even worse…you won’t know any of it is happening until they act on it!

Protecting Your Devices from Spyware

Fortunately, we are not defenseless against spyware.

Good antivirus software can monitor for and BLOCK spyware from ever downloading onto your system in the first place. It can pop up a warning when you are about to go to a site that sneakily downloads spyware onto your device automatically, or scan every file you try to download to assess if it’s malware.

Meanwhile, you are also responsible for being a responsible denizen of the world wide web. Don’t click suspicious links or downloads, and be careful what websites you trust. Even trustworthy websites can be compromised with fake advertisements and invisible text fields, which can trick you into clicking or entering information. Stay up to date with the latest threats and defenses so that you can make smarter decisions online.

Just like you’d lock your doors to keep out intruders, you need to protect your devices from digital snoops by staying vigilant against spyware—and all the other cyber-threats lurking on the web!

Photo by Antoni Shkraba

References

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